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‘Fair is not always lovely’: New study reveals 66% of women in J&K are anemic

3d rendered illustration of human red blood cell

SRINAGAR: In colorism-obsessed Kashmir, fair is not always lovely.

National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5.0 has revealed that 66 percent of women in Jammu and Kashmir are suffering from anemia. Doctors conclude that the fairness could be due to anemia.


“Fairness could be paleness due to anemia: 2 out of 3 women in J&K are anemic (Hb <12gm/dl) which causes fatigue, weakness, headache, breathlessness, and palpitations. Please take green leafy vegetables, meat, beans, lentils, jaggery; and cook food in iron utensils,” said Professor Muhammad Salim Khan, head, department of Community Medicine, Government Medical College, Srinagar.

Of the 66 percent women, 25 percent have mild, 38 percent moderate and three percent severe anemia.

“Anemia is particularly high among rural women, girls aged between 15 and19, and other backward class strata of society. But anemia exceeds 40 percent for every group of women. Anemia among women has increased by five percent since NFHS-4,” said NFHS-5 survey 2019-20, which was released in 2021.

More than one-third (37%) of men in Jammu and Kashmir are anemic. “Men aged between 15 and 19 and 40-49 years are particularly likely to be anemic,” the survey said.

Anemia is a major health problem especially among women and children in Jammu and Kashmir. About three-fourths (73%) of children aged 6-59 months are anemic. This includes 25 percent who are mildly anemic, 44 percent who are moderately anemic, and four percent who have severely anemic.

The overall prevalence of anemia in children increased from 43 percent in NFHS-4 to 73 percent in NFHS-5. There is a slight difference in the prevalence of anemia among girls (71%) and boys (74%) in NFHS-5. 

“Anemia levels vary somewhat according to background characteristics.  Anemia among children is widespread in every group. Three-fourths (74%) of children in Jammu and Kashmir are anemic even if their mother has 12 or more years of schooling,” said the study.

Anemia is a condition that is marked by low levels of hemoglobin in the blood. Iron deficiency is estimated to be responsible for about half of all anemias globally. Still, anemia can also be caused by malaria, hookworms, helminths, nutritional deficiencies, chronic infections, and genetic conditions.

“Anemia can result in maternal mortality, weakness,  diminished physical and mental capacity. It can  increase morbidity from infectious diseases, perinatal  mortality, premature delivery, low birth weight, and (in children) impaired cognitive  performance, motor development, and scholastic achievement,” the study said.