Government of India, India

Data: More elderly couples staying alone than in 2004, reveals the recent NSS report


The recently released 75th round report of the National Sample Survey focused on health issues including the status of the aged persons or elderly. Data from this report indicates that more aged women are living alone compared to aged men and that more elderly couples are staying alone compared to 2004.

The National Sample Survey is an exercise carried out regularly by the government, across the country, to collect data on various socio-economic aspects influencing the life of population such as education, health, demography, employment, and agriculture. Since the most comprehensive and largest such exercise, the Census, happens only every 10 years, the NSS reports in the interim serve an important purpose for the government, policy makers, and others to identify the issues in specific areas and address the same. 

Recently, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) released the 75th Round of NSS report which provides insights on the health sector. The survey collected quantitative information on aspects such as morbidity, government and private facilities and their roles, expenditure on treatment and consultation, condition of aged persons, among others. We look at the survey results related to ‘aged persons’ in this story. 

Biologically, ageing is the result of accumulation of wide variety of molecular and cellular damage over time. Thus, as a person gets older, their physical and mental capacity may decline, making them more vulnerable to ailments and diseases. Ageing is also associated with transition in life like retirement. Aged persons may be dependent on others for financial reasons, or health related reasons. All these aspects have been covered in the NSS survey. 

10.4 crore persons in India are those aged 60 and above

According to the Census 2011, there were nearly 10.4 crore aged persons in India- accounting for 8.6% of the population. ‘Aged persons’ are those who are 60 years and above. The NSS Survey revealed that percentage of aged persons was 6.6% in rural India and 7.8% in urban India. 

More ‘Aged Women’ living alone as compared to ‘Aged Men’

Around 4.4% of the aged persons in rural India and 3.6% of them in urban areas were living alone, as per the survey. Gender wise distribution reveals that 7.2% of the aged women in rural areas and 5.5% of the aged women in urban areas are living alone. In contrast,  only 1.6% of the aged men in rural areas and 1.7% aged men in urban areas are living alone. Nearly 19% of the aged women in rural Andhra Pradesh and 23.4% of them in rural Telangana are living alone. Living alone includes persons in old age homes as well.

Around 13.4% of aged persons in rural areas and 15.5% of them in urban areas are living with their spouse only whereas 51.1% in rural and 48.6% in urban areas are living with spouse and other members. 39.9% of aged females in rural and 44.4% of them in urban areas are living without their spouse but with their children. Only a small fraction, 0.1% of the persons in urban areas are living with people who are not related to them. 

Sizable portion of aged persons are living in their own houses

Majority of the aged persons, more than 92% in rural areas and 87% in urban areas are living in their own house. In rural areas, nearly 96% of the aged men and 89% of aged women are living in their own house. In urban areas, 91% aged men and 83% aged women are living in their own house.  

Percentage of aged persons living with only spouse has increased

If we compare the current data with the previous NSS round, it is observed that the aged persons living with only their spouse in urban areas has increased from 10.4% during the 60th round in 2004 to 15.5% in the latest report while the same in rural areas has increased from 12.5% to 13.4%. This may be indicative of an increasing number of nuclear families with couples choosing to live outside the joint family setup.  The proportion of aged persons living with spouse and other members has also increased from 44.2% to 51.1% in rural areas and from 46.8% to 48.6% in urban areas.

Hardly one in three aged persons were financially independent

The financial independence of aged persons in the country, as indicated by the survey shows that only around 28% of them in rural areas (including 48% men and 10% women) and 33% of them in urban areas (including 57% men and 11% women) were financially independent. Close to a quarter of the aged persons in rural and one-fifth the persons in urban areas were partially dependent on others for their financial needs. About 47% in both rural and urban areas were fully dependent. This includes 66% of aged women in rural areas and 47% of them in urban areas who are fully dependent on others. In rural Delhi, 70% of the persons were financially independent. In Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, 40% of the aged persons in urban areas were financially independent.

As per the previous survey, nearly 52% in rural and 51% of the aged persons in urban areas were dependent fully on others. The proportion of persons who were financially independent or partially dependent on others, has increased as compared to the previous NSS Survey, again indicating the possible shift in the family structure.

Of those who are financially dependent, more than 90% of aged men depended on children and grandchildren 

Majority of the aged persons who were economically dependent were dependent on their children- 79% in rural and 76% in urban areas. Of such persons, 93% of aged males in rural areas and 92% of them in urban areas and 75% aged women in rural and 72% of them in urban areas depended on their children and grandchildren.  Around 21% to 24% aged women depended on their spouse for money. Compared to the 52nd round of the survey in 1995-96, the proportion of persons in both urban and rural areas, dependent on grandchildren and others has declined.

9 in 10 aged persons in India were physically mobile

Physical condition shows that around 91% of aged females and 94% of aged males in India were physically mobile, that is, they could move around. With age, the proportion of persons confined to bed and houses also increases. The proportion in rural and urban areas was not that different. About 34% aged persons in urban areas and 25% in rural areas reported illnesses. About two-thirds of aged persons with chronic illnesses and more than three-fourths of those without chronic illnesses felt that their current health was good. 

Ageing population is a cause of concern

Globally, the phenomenon of ageing population is gaining attention for the last few years. Increased life expectancy coupled with dwindling fertility rates is increasing the proportion of aged persons on the planet. For instance, in India, the proportion of aged persons was around 6.7% in 1991 and has increased to 8.5% in 2011. In 2021, it is projected to increase further to 10%. Their increased proportion reduces the working age population, puts strain the health care system among other things. Governments will also be forced to spend more for aged persons as their proportion increases. 

About the NSS 75th round survey: The survey was conducted between July 2017 and June 2018, collecting data from 1.13 Lakh households & 5.55 lakh persons from every district in the country. Households from about 8,077 randomly selected villages and 6,181 randomly selected urban blocks were considered for the survey. The data in the NSS report is based on responses of persons and not based on any official government records. 

Featured Image: By balouriarajesh


About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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