India’s current epidemic of non-communicable diseases has resulted from increased urbanization, changing lifestyles and people living longer. But a study has found that non-communicable disease risk factors, including tobacco smoking and obesity, are strikingly high even among rural populations.

The study focused on rural populations because two thirds of India’s one billion people still live in rural areas. Rural populations have limited access to health care and can least afford to pay for the high treatment costs associated with chronic conditions.

The prevalence of non-communicable (NCD) risk factors was the following:

  • Tobacco use (40 percent men, four percent women)
  • Low fruit and vegetable intake (69 percent men, 75 percent women)
  • Obesity (19 percent men, 28 percent women)
  • High cholesterol (33 percent men, 35 percent women)
  • Hypertension (20 percent men, 22 percent women)
  • Diabetes (six percent men, five percent women)
  • Underweight (21 percent men, 18 percent women)


1. Kinra S, Bowen LJ, Lyngdoh T, et al. Sociodemographic patterning of non-communicable disease risk factors in rural India: a cross sectional study. BMJ 2010; 341: c4974. (open access)