An epidemic on the rise

Swetha Suresh

Neurological disability on the rise
Neurological disability on the rise  (Photo: via Wikimedia Commons)

An epidemiological study conducted by a team of Indian scientists alarms us to an emerging epidemic of neurological disorders. Increasing life-span, road accidents and stroke occurrences are pin-pointed as the main contributing factors.


Road accidents result in 60 – 70% of total traumatic brain injury cases in India. Based on the data from National Crime Records Bureau for road accident deaths, the number of people suffering from brain injury is an estimated 1.5−1.7 million each year. Increasing life-span in a population results in increased number of age related dementia. The risk for dementia doubles every 5 years additional lifespan over 65 resulting in 1.6 million dementia patients annually. Over the past 40 years, the incidence of stroke has doubled in India adding 0.45−0.6 million patients. All together, 7 people every minute may acquire a neurological disability in India due to these causes.

Usually family members act as the primary caregiver and face the economic burden of treatment as well. Increased expenditure and loss of earnings (patient’s financial contribution) delivers a double whammy. Considering that over 37% of Indians fall below the international poverty line, the socioeconomic burden becomes disproportionately high for the poor*. The study suggests actionable items to contain this problem – enforcing traffic safety measures, better diagnostics, accessible medical treatment, developing rehabilitation programme for those affected and national policy changes.

However, more country specific data and data covering the entire age spectrum inclusive of childhood disorders are required to formulate better national policy strategies to tackle this pressing issue.

Further reading:
Das A, Botticello AL, Wylie GR, Kurupath R. Neurologic Disability: A Hidden Epidemic for India. Neurology.2012 Nov 79(21) 2146 – 2147