More men took to non-vegetarian diet in last six years, says national health survey data

Amidst all the debates about eating veg-non veg and its health benefits-effects, more Indian women have taken to eating non-vegetarian food in the last six years. The numbers shot sharply between 20155-16 and 2019-21, says data from the National Family Health Survey (NHS).

Data accessed by IE also found that the proportion of men aged 15-49 years who have never consumed non-vegetarian food — listed as ‘fish, chicken or meat’ in the survey — stood at 16.6 per cent in 2019-21 as opposed to 2015-16 data by NFHS-4 that said 21.6 per cent men belonged to that group, recording a 5 percentage drop.

As for women, there is only a marginal drop in women in the same age group (15-49) who have never consumed ‘fish, chicken or meat’ from 29.9 per cent in 2015-16 to 29.4 per cent in 2019-21.

The NFHS-5 was conducted in two phases between June 17, 2019, and April 30, 2021, covering 29 states and seven Union Territories.

The data further revealed that an overwhelming 83.4 per cent of men in the 15-49 age group eat non-vegetarian food daily, weekly or occasionally, a record jump from 78.4 per cent  men in 2015-16 figures. As for women, only a marginal rise of 0.6 per cent was noticed i.e. 70.6 per cent in NHFS-5 from 70 per cent in HFHS-4.

Occasional or once in a week meat eaters rose sharply  from 48.9 per cent to 57.3 per cent among men. In women the increase is just by 2,3 per cent.  The highest non-vegetarian eaters are found in Lakshadweep (98.4 per cent) and lowest in Rajasthan  (14.1 per cent). Other Indian states in the south like Andaman 7 Nicobar Islands, Goa, Kerala and Puducherry also had the highest non-vegetarian eating population. Along with Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh account for the states at the bottom of this list.

Population of non-vegetarian eaters who consumed ‘fish, chicken or other meat’ once a week increased most in Sikkim and declined most in Tripura but by a heavy margin.

Among religious groups, Christian men and women accounted for the highest consumption of non-vegetarian food weekly in the 15-49 age group followed by Hindu men: 52.5%, women: 40.7%; Muslim men: 79.5%, women: 70.2%; Sikh men: 19.5%, women: 7.9%; Buddhist/Neo-Buddhist men: 74.1%, women: 62.2%; and Jain men 14.9%, women: 4.3%.

Moreover, portion of men and women consuming aerated drinks has come down over the years from 88.3 per cent for men and 83.5 per cent for women in 2-15-16 to 86.4 per cent men and 84.3 per cent for women in 2019-21. The proportion of those who ate fried food stood at 95.6 per cent for women and 92.6 per cent for men.

Three items, pulses/beans, leafy vegetables, and fruits — were consumed daily, weekly or occasionally by almost 100 per cent of the population during 2019-20. Also, 96.2 per cent of men and 94.2 per cent of women consumed milk and curd either daily, weekly or occasionally, the survey data showed.