Healthy Ageing

Obesity and the quest for successful ageing in India

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in India has been on the rise, surpassing global averages.

As the world’s population ages, the significance of successful ageing has gained prominence. With longer lifespans, the focus has shifted towards not just living longer but also living better. Successful ageing is a multidimensional concept that encompasses factors like physical health, cognitive well-being, and social engagement.

However, successful ageing doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Lifestyle choices, particularly concerning obesity, play a crucial role. Obesity, recognized as a global epidemic, has been increasing at an alarming rate in India, causing a surge in various health issues. In this article, we explore a study conducted by T. Muhammad, Arun Balachandran, Pradeep Kumar, and Shobhit Srivastava, which examines the relationship between measures related to obesity and successful ageing among older adults in India.

India’s successful ageing challenge

India, like many countries, is experiencing a significant demographic shift with an increasingly older population. Presently, around 8.6% of India’s population is aged 60 and above, and this number is expected to reach 20% by 2050. This ageing population poses new challenges and opportunities for the country’s healthcare and social systems.

With the rise in life expectancy, the quality of those additional years becomes crucial. It’s not just about living longer; it’s about ensuring that these years are spent in good health and happiness. Successful ageing is a way to measure this, focusing on factors like physical well-being, psychological health, and social engagement.

The obesity epidemic

One major factor impacting the quality of life among older adults in India is obesity. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has been on the rise in India, exceeding global averages. Between 1998 and 2015, the prevalence of overweight among Indian women increased from 8.4% to 15.5%, and obesity increased from 2.2% to 5.1%. Obesity is a complex problem with far-reaching consequences.

Obesity not only increases the risk of various lifestyle diseases but also affects cognitive abilities, mental health, and leads to chronic conditions and multiple health issues. It’s not just about living longer; it’s about ensuring that these additional years are spent in good health and happiness.

The study and its findings

This study, utilizing data from India’s first nationally representative longitudinal ageing survey (LASI), involved more than 31,000 older adults in India. It found that more than 34% of older men and nearly 26% of older women qualified as successful agers. The study defines successful ageing based on a combination of physical, psychological, and social parameters.

These findings are higher compared to similar studies conducted in China, suggesting that the perception of successful ageing may differ across different cultures and definitions. In this study, gender disparities in successful ageing were observed, with men having higher rates of successful ageing than women.

The gender paradox

This gender difference in successful ageing can be explained by the “gender paradox” in health. Women with worse health tend to live longer than men, and it’s consistent with previous studies in other developing countries. This discrepancy can be attributed to men having better cognitive function, increased physical abilities, and more significant social engagement than women in India.

The role of lifestyle in successful ageing

One of the most significant findings of this study is the association between obesity and successful ageing. Overweight or obese older adults had a reduced likelihood of ageing successfully. The adverse effects of obesity were more pronounced in women, who were less likely to achieve active ageing compared to men of the same weight category.

Additionally, factors such as physical inactivity, working status, and living arrangements also played a role in determining successful ageing. Physically active individuals were more likely to age successfully, and working older adults had a higher chance of achieving successful ageing.

The road ahead

This study highlights the importance of understanding modifiable factors, including nutritional awareness and targeted strategies for promoting successful ageing. The risk factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity, are obvious targets for health promotion efforts, emphasizing healthy eating and exercise among older people.

Moreover, this study sheds light on the challenges and opportunities India faces as its population continues to age. With a relatively short history of dealing with ageing-related issues compared to developed countries, further research is required, ideally with more follow-up surveys to track changes and improvements in successful ageing.

The study conducted by T. Muhammad, Arun Balachandran, Pradeep Kumar, and Shobhit Srivastava is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the complex factors that influence the quality of life in older adults. It’s a reminder that as we age, our lifestyle choices, especially concerning obesity, can significantly impact how we age and the quality of those later years.


In conclusion, this study provides critical insights into the challenges of ageing and the impact of obesity on successful ageing among older adults in India. The findings underscore the need for focused efforts on health promotion, including addressing obesity and promoting physical activity, to ensure that the elderly can age successfully and enjoy a higher quality of life. The study’s results are a valuable resource for policymakers and healthcare professionals as they work to support the ageing population in India.


The research study discussed in this article was conducted by T. Muhammad, Arun Balachandran, Pradeep Kumar, and Shobhit Srivastava.

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