Non-communicable neurological disorders on the rise in India, says Lancet study

The non-communicable neurological disorders include stroke, headache disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer's, brain and CNS cancer, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and motor neuron diseases
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

A study of the burden of neurological disorders in India between 1990-2019 published in the Lancet medical journal found that non-communicable and injury related neurological disorders increased while communicable neurological disorders reduced.

The contribution of non-communicable neurological disorders to total disability life adjusted years (DALYs) in India doubled from 4 percent in 1990 to 8.2 percent in 2019 and the contribution of injury related neurological disorders increased from 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent, while the contribution of communicable neurological disorders decreased from 4.1 percent to 1.1 percent during the same period. The study published on July 13 is titled "The burden of neurological disorders across the states of India: The global gurden of disease study 1990–2019".

DALY is a measure of overall disease burden expressed in terms of number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or death. The non-communicable neurological disorders referred to in this report include stroke, headache disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, brain and CNS cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and motor neuron diseases, while the communicable ones include encephalitis, meningitis, tetanus and injury related ones include traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries

The report stated that in 2019, the largest contributors to the total neurological disorder DALYs in India were stroke, headache disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and encephalitis.

"This report is important as it highlights that the burden of age related neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's and motor neuron diseases, as well spinal cord and head injuries is increasing. While states in the north including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand have still got communicable neurological diseases, southern states and Jammu and Kashmir are witnessing a rise in non-communicable neurological disorders," said Dr P Satish Chandra, senior consultant, Neurology, Apollo Hospitals and former director vice-chancellor and senior professor of Neurology, NIMHANS.

The increasing contribution of non-communicable and injury-related neurological disorders to the overall disease burden in India, and the substantial state-level variation in the burden of many neurological disorders highlight the need for state-specific health system responses to address the gaps in neurology services related to awareness, early identification, treatment and rehabilitation, an excerpt of the study said.

Similarly, Dr Chandra said that our attention should be focused towards prevention of non-communicable neurological diseases and that there is a need to strengthen the funding and spread of two of Government of India's programmes - National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and The National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly. These measures should be taken up fast as by 2050, one-fifth of the population will be more than 60 years old, Dr Chandra said, adding that as the demography changes with increased longevity, the disease burden is rising too.

"Migraine and multiple sclerosis were more prevalent among females than males and traumatic brain injuries were more common among males than females in 2019. Communicable diseases contributed to the majority of total neurological disorder DALYs in children younger than five years, and non-communicable neurological disorders were the highest contributor in all other age groups," the study found.

Highlights from the study

In 2019, of the total DALYs due to all neurological disorders in India, the contribution of non-communicable neurological disorders was 82.8%, that of communicable neurological disorders was 11.2% and that of injury-related neurological disorders was 6%.

In 2019, the predominant contributor to total deaths caused by neurological disorders in India was stroke, followed by Alzheimer's and other dementias and encephalitis.

In 2019, the estimated number of incident cases of stroke in India was 1.29 million and number of deaths due to stroke was 6,99,000.

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