Background: Functional health status greatly influences quality of life at old age. Population-based data on health problems, functional status, behavioral risk factors, health care use, and social circumstances are imperative for public health intervention with elderly people. Lack of infrastructure amplifies the morbidity and disability among the elderly, especially in slums, because of additional factors such as poverty, poor hygiene, and lack of awareness. As a result, health problems such as cataract, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, emotional problems, insomnia, and hearing defect are prevailing among them.
Objective: To characterize the morbidity and disability of the elderly population living in the slums of Shimoga, Karnataka.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional community-based study was carried out among the elderly population in three slums located in the urban field practice area of Shimoga Institute of Medical Sciences. Data were collected from 460 elderly individuals by doing a house-to-house visit.
Results: Majority of the elderly people belonged to the lower socioeconomic strata. The habit of tobacco chewing was more compared to smoking. A higher number of both men and women consumed alcohol. Health service use was very poor. Approximately 90% of them did not seek services from the known health-care delivery services in case of illnesses. Awareness about the common health problems was more in men (74.7%) compared to women (43.4%). Chronic and noncommunicable conditions such as hypertension, musculoskeletal problems, cataract, and respiratory conditions were the commonly observed health problems.
Conclusion: The chronic noncommunicable diseases have been a major issue even among the people living in the slums. As the awareness about the common illnesses is poor, the challenge is to identify the reasons behind this and ensuring an increase in the levels of awareness as regards use of health-care services.
Key words: Elderly, urban slum, morbidity, disability