National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16: Tamil Nadu


Since 1992, the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, has conducted the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The survey provides detailed information on population, health and nutrition in each state and union territory of India.        

This state report on Tamil Nadu presents the important findings of the survey’s fourth round, conducted in 31 districts between February 13 and June 24, 2015. Previous NFHS surveys were conducted in 1992-93, 1998-99 and 2005-06.

NFHS-4 surveyed 572,000 households in 640 districts of India (as per the 2011 Census). In Tamil Nadu, data was gathered from 26,033 households; 28,820 women (aged 15-49) and 5,317 men (aged 15-54) were interviewed.   

The survey collected information on the socio-economic characteristics of households, education, fertility, family planning, infant and child mortality, and maternal and child health. It further gathered information on reproductive health, sexual behaviour, marriage, domestic violence, and attitudes towards gender roles. It also put together information on HIV/AIDS status, nutrition, water and sanitation, health services and insurance.


  1. About half (51 per cent) of Tamil Nadu's households were in urban areas. On average, households comprised of 3.8 members, and 16 per cent of all households were headed by women.

  2. The vast majority (90 per cent) of the heads of households were Hindu, 5 per cent were Christian and 5 per cent, Muslim. 27 per cent of all households were headed by people from the Scheduled Castes. Heads of households belonging to the Other Backward Classes accounted for 69 per cent. And those from the Scheduled Tribes came to 2 per cent.

  3. The overall sex ratio was 1,033 females per 1,000 males. In the under-seven population, it was was 939 females per 1,000 males.

  4. The under-15 age group accounted for 23 per cent of the total population while those above 65 were only 7 per cent.

  5. Only 31 per cent of all households got piped water in their dwellings, yards or plots – urban households (35 per cent) were more likely to get piped water than rural ones (26 per cent).

  6. Around 61 per cent of all rural households practised open defecation as compared to 17 per cent of urban households.

  7. 93 per cent of children in the 6-17 age group attended school. There was almost no gender disparity in school attendance in both the 6-14 and the 15-17 age groups. However, only 32 per cent of women aged 15-49 had completed 12 or more years of schooling, compared to 38 per cent of men.

  8. As many as 16 per cent of women in the 20-24 age group had been married before they reached the legal minimum age of 18. The total fertility rate averaged 1.7 children per woman. That is, it was 1.5 children per woman in urban areas and 1.9 children per woman in rural areas.

  9. The infant mortality rate was estimated at 20 deaths before the age of one per 1,000 live births. That’s down from the NFHS-3 (2005-06) estimate of 30. The survey also found that 1 in 34 boys die before the age of five, compared with 1 in 42 girls.

  10. Among mothers who gave birth in the five years preceding the survey, 81 per cent had at least four antenatal care visits. However, though the proportion of these women had decreased substantially since NFHS-3. Nearly all births (99 per cent) took place in a public health facility, and 88 per cent of mothers had a postnatal check after their last birth.

  11. The report says that 70 per cent of children aged 12-23 months had received all the basic vaccinations against six major childhood illnesses before the survey. That is: tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio and measles. More boys (72 per cent) than girls (67 per cent) received these vaccinations.

  12. Over 1 in 4 children under the age of five were stunted or undernourished, 20 per cent were wasted or too thin for their height, 8 per cent were severely wasted, and 24 per cent were underweight. Among children between 6 and 59 months, 50 per cent were anaemic.

  13. The public health sector was the main source of health care for 74 per cent of rural households and 53 per cent of urban households. Nearly 64 per cent of all households (69 per cent rural and 59 per cent urban) had some kind of health insurance that covered at least one member.      

  14. In the year preceding the survey, 32 per cent of all women aged 15-49 were employed, whereas the number was 80 per cent for men in the same group. Just 58 per cent of women worked in non-agricultural occupations as compared to 75 per cent of men.

  15. The survey found that 76 per cent of married women participated in decisions about their health, major household purchases and visits to family or relatives. More than three-fourths (77 per cent) of women had their own bank or savings accounts that they used themselves.

  16. Among women aged 15-49, 44 per cent had experienced physical violence and 8 per cent, sexual violence. Although the prevalence of spousal violence was lower among more educated women, more than 1 in 4 women, who had at least 12 years of schooling, had experienced physical or sexual spousal violence.

    Focus and Factoids by Ragini Rao Munjuluri.


International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai

Contributors: Manoj Alagarajan, Sarang Pedgaonkar, Dhananjay Bansod and Pav Govindasamy


Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India 


01 Sep, 2017