Anaemia prevalence in eight States found to be overestimated

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

A study across eight States in India has found that the prevalence of anaemia has been overestimated by previous surveys. 

More about the news:

  • The latest multi-institutional study was carried out by a team from St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru.
  • The study was conducted across eight States in India involving 4,613 participants that included adolescents (647 girls and 674 boys), adults (931 women and 927 men) and elderly (714 women and 720 men).

Methodology of study:

  • While the NFHS surveys measured haemoglobin using finger prick-based capillary blood, the new study used venous blood to measure haemoglobin and iron status through ferritin.
    • Capillary blood haemoglobin may underestimate the true values due to  the phenomenon called plasma-skimming, leading to a slightly lower red blood cell count compared to venous blood.
    • Mixing of tissue fluid during capillary blood sample collection can dilute haemoglobin levels, further reducing accuracy.
    • The WHO has also recently recommended that anaemia be diagnosed from venous blood estimations of haemoglobin.

Key findings of the study:

  • The study revealed that the majority of cases of anaemia were mild, with 18.4% of the entire sample experiencing mild anaemia, 14.7% with moderate anaemia, and 1.8% with severe anaemia.
  • Women exhibited a higher overall prevalence of anaemia compared to men, with 22% of women experiencing moderate anaemia compared to 7.6% of men.
  • Among different age groups, the prevalence of anaemia varied: 44%, 41%, and 45% in adolescent girls, adults, and elderly women, respectively.
  • For adolescent boys, adults, and elderly men, the prevalence of anaemia was 24%, 21%, and 37%, respectively.
  • In comparison, the prevalence of anaemia was much higher as per the NFHS surveys that used capillary blood60.8% for women, 62.6% for adolescent girls, 26% for men and 31.8% for adolescent boys.

State wise data:

  • According to the current study, Assam had the highest prevalence of total anaemia, with 69.8% overall and 78.3% among women.
  • Following Assam, Odisha exhibited a prevalence of 55% overall and 63% among women.
  • Meghalaya showed the lowest prevalence of anaemia at 12.1% overall and 14.6% among women, followed by Telangana with 16.9% overall and 24.6% among women.
  • The prevalence rate of anaemia in Telangana is followed by West Bengal (19.5% overall; 28% for women), Tamil Nadu (23.7% overall; 32.4% for women), Gujarat (33.9% overall; 44.2% for women), and Madhya Pradesh (45.4% overall; 55.9% for women).

Iron deficiency:

  • Iron deficiency prevalence within the entire group was at 18.4.
  • It was highest among adolescent girls (31.5%) followed by adult women (27.7%), and elderly women (13.6%). 
  • The prevalence of iron deficiency was 16.0%, 10.7% and 11.2% for adolescent boys, adults, and elderly men, respectively.
  • Across all age groups, the majority of anaemia cases were linked to 'unknown causes'.

Impact of diet on anaemia: 

  • A significant portion of the Indian population primarily consumes cereal-based diets with limited intake of coloured vegetables and fruits.
  • The decreasing protein, vitamin, and mineral levels in cereals due to climate change are prompting a need for dietary diversification towards more resilient options like millets.
    • While millets may contain phytates that can hinder nutrient absorption, they are rich in iron and calcium, potentially leading to higher overall intake of these essential nutrients.
  • According to the study, mild anaemia prevalence was higher among individuals following a vegetarian diet compared to those on a non-vegetarian diet.
  • However, the prevalence of moderate and severe anaemia was similar across both dietary groups, suggesting that moderate and severe anaemia may not solely result from a lack of specific nutrients.


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