Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Health Condition of Older Women in Ghana: A Case Study of Accra City

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Health Condition of Older Women in Ghana: A Case Study of Accra City

Article excerpt


In the context of increased rural-urban migration, social exclusion of some of the recent urban arrivals and the sharp change in life style in urban communities, some of the most critical health problems of older people may be found in cities. This paper attempts to characterize the general health condition of older women (50 years and over) in Accra, Ghana's capital city. It employs secondary analysis of data from the Accra Women's Survey, 2004. The findings broadly suggest that an overwhelming majority of older women lack basic education, are not in any form of paid employment, and are widowed, separated or divorced. 3% the women rate their general health condition as excellent, 18% as very good, 41% as good. 35 % believe there health condition has worsened in the last 12 months. Such perception of deterioration in health status is associated with increasing age. Almost 4 in 5 older women have difficulty climbing stairs and have pains in their joints; 53 % have malaria, 42 % have high blood pressure, and 8% have diabetes. Thus, older women in urban Ghana are experiencing a double burden of disease. They are afflicted with the common tropical diseases such as malaria, while simultaneously experiencing chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. Older persons' concerns have remained marginal to the major social and economic debates in the country. Health services need to be oriented to responding to chronic as well as infectious diseases among ageing individuals.

Keywords: women and health, Ghana, urban conditions

Introduction and Rationale

The numerical growth of elderly persons around the world is an eloquent testimony not only of reductions in fertility but also of reductions in infant and maternal mortality, improved nutrition, reduction in infectious and parasitic diseases, as well as improvement in health care, education and income. Global total fertility rate has declined from 5.0 live births per woman in 1950-1955 to 2.7 live births per woman in 2000-2005, and is expected to further reduce to replacement level, that is 2.2 live births per woman by 2045-2050 period (United Nations, 2003; 2001). Also life expectancy has increased from 46.5 years in 1950.1955 to 66.0 years in 2000-2005, and is expected to rise to 76 years by the 2045-2050. In sub-Saharan Africa, the corresponding fertility values are 6.7 live births per woman in the early 1950s to 5.5 live births per woman by early 2000s and 2.4 live births per woman by 2045-2050 period. Similarly, expectation of life at birth rose from 36.7 years in the 1950s to 48.4 years by 2000-2005, and is projected to peak at 68.4 years during the 2045-2050 period. Ghana's fertility and mortality profile is similar to that of sub-Saharan Africa. This is because fertility fell from 5.8 to 4.5 live births per woman in one half century, and is expected to fall to replacement level during 2045-2050 period while life expectancy increased from 38.5 to 40.2 years in five decades, and is expected to reach 65.1 years by 2045-2050 period (United Nations, 2003) (2).

Because the ageing phenomenon is occurring more slowly in Africa than elsewhere in the world and because Africa's populations are characteristically youthful (Population Reference Bureau, 2006; United Nations, 2003) the problems that are manifest among children and young adults are thought to be more significant. As a result, very little attention is paid to ageing in Africa by both the research community and policy makers while disproportionate consideration is given to other aspects of the age spectrum (e.g., infant and childhood, adolescence and childbearing ages).

The African continent is overwhelmingly rural and the least urbanized region of the world (United Nations, 2004). At the same time, one of the major demographic problems in the region is the rapid rate of urbanization and the inability of the urban place to play a sufficiently dynamic role in the process of development (3). …

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