More women than men say yes to AYUSH

08 Jul 2024
More women than men say yes to AYUSH

Opinion: Palash Baruah & DL Wankhar.

A survey shows that, across all economic statuses, more women than men go in for AYUSH systems.

The much-publicised International Day of Yoga has had a significant impact on raising awareness and promoting the adoption of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) as vital health interventions. Government initiatives, along with efforts from other agencies, have fostered the acceptance of AYUSH systems in India. As it gains momentum, its integration into modern health practices will mark a significant shift towards holistic and traditional health interventions, promoting a more inclusive approach to well-being.

The first comprehensive all-India survey on AYUSH was conducted between July 2022 and June 2023, covering 181,298 households (104,195 in rural areas and 77,103 in urban areas). Its results unveiled fascinating and thought-provoking insights: An impressive 95.1 per cent of respondents reported awareness of AYUSH systems, with slightly higher awareness in urban areas and no significant gender divide. Around 95.1 per cent of men and 95.2 per cent of women stated that they are aware of the system

The survey further revealed that over half of the respondents (53.1 per cent) had used AYUSH treatments within the last 365 days when the survey was conducted. The usage was for treating or preventing diseases and ailments based on the advice of a medical practitioner or instructor. It also encompassed home-based remedies, self-medication and self-treatment.

While general awareness of AYUSH systems showed no gender divide and rising age did not hinder its adoption, it’s intriguing that adoption rates among females were higher at 56.3 per cent compared to only half among males. Delving further, it was observed that adoption rates among females across all age groups surpassed those among males. The gender gap was more pronounced in younger age groups (peaking in the 26-35 years age group) and gradually tapered in higher age groups.

Remarkably, the data also showed that across all economic statuses, females exhibited higher adoption of AYUSH systems compared to males. Among males, adoption rates ranged from 43.5 per cent in the lowest quintile (poorest) to 59.3 per cent in the highest quintile (richest), while for females, the corresponding range was 49 per cent to 64.4 per cent.

The pattern didn’t end there. A look at the adoption or usage rate across educational levels revealed that women had a higher rate. Even illiterate females showed a much higher adoption or usage rate than males who were graduates and above.

The reasons

So, are females more receptive to adopting or using AYUSH systems? Data has proven so, but there are no straightforward reasons that this pattern could be attributed to. Even on closer examination of the survey data, we found that the survey attempted to elicit information on the ‘reasons for not using AYUSH systems’ from the respondents. But, after analysing the data, it pointed to no perceptibly strong factors to arrive at a definite conclusion. However, data showed that males exhibited more faith in allopathy across all age groups as compared to females. Could we infer an inverse relationship between lower faith in allopathy and higher adoption and usage of AYUSH systems among females? Suffice it to say that it would not be a safer bet to rely solely on this factor; it is at best one of the several contributing factors.

Contrary to common perception, there is a notable trend of greater usage and acceptance of AYUSH systems among females compared to males. This pattern holds true across all age groups, educational levels, and income brackets. A deeper look at the present survey did not quite reveal any distinct features that would lead us to conclusively pinpoint any specific reasons or factors.  This pattern and phenomenon presents a new perspective that warrants further investigation, and hence the need for adequate and relevant information.

Palash Baruah is Associate Fellow at the National Council of Applied Economic Research; D L Wankhar is a retd government officer. Views are personal.

Published in: Deccan Herald, 08 Jul 2024