Population-based studies on anaemia in India have mostly focused on women and children and men with the condition have received much less attention despite its adverse effect on health and economic productivity. A new study aimed at determining the prevalence of anaemia among men in India has found that 23.5 per cent of men had anaemia, ranging from mild to moderate to severe degrees.
In this study of more than 1,00,000 men in the 15-54 years age group, researchers from Public Health Foundation of India, UN World Food Programme, Harvard University in the US and Heidelberg University, University of Giessen and University of Goettingen in Germany found a high prevalence of anaemia among men. About 18 per cent of the men in the study had mild anaemia, 5 per cent had moderate anaemia and 0.5 per cent had severe anaemia.
Prof Ashish Awasthi, co-author of the study, ‘Anaemia among men in India: a nationally representative cross-sectional study’, that was published in Lancet Global Health, told The Indian Express that anaemia among pregnant women and in early childhood is linked to poor health outcomes for the mother and child.
However, even among men, anaemia is not without consequences: it can decrease productivity by causing fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and lethargy, he said. Although male anaemia does not affect the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition and anaemia, it may reduce overall work performance and quality of life, especially in cases of moderate and severe anaemia, Prof Awasthi pointed out.
The study found that the prevalence of anaemia in men varied widely between states, ranging from 9 per cent in Manipur to 33 per cent in Bihar. Men with less education, less household wealth and those living in rural areas were more likely to have anaemia, the study found.
“Most cases of anaemia are thought to be due to low iron levels, which can be prevented and treated effectively with iron tablets and food fortification with iron. However, due to poor awareness, compliance to treatment or supplement and other additional nutritional deficiencies, anaemia is still an unsolved puzzle in our country,” said Prof Awasthi, an assistant professor at the Public Health Foundation of India.
The finding that anaemia was more common among poorer and less educated individuals, those living in rural areas and those in poorer districts was true for both men and women.
“Geographic and sociodemographic patterns of who has anaemia in India appear to be similar between men and women. It could, therefore, be efficient to couple efforts to reduce anaemia among men with existing efforts that target anaemia among women and children,” said Oliver Didzun, lead author of the study.
In 2018, India launched Anemia Mukt Bharat, which aimed to reach children, pregnant women, women of reproductive age and male and female adolescents. “Given the inexpensive treatment of many common forms of anaemia and the condition’s effect on economic productivity, policy makers in India might want to consider extending some components of the Anemia Mukt Bharat programme to men…” researchers said in the study.