Rising numbers of non-communicable diseases in Thailand’s working population

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BANGKOK, Oct 6 Ninety thousand Thais are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) annually, with 37 per cent of working age or younger than age 60, Deputy Health Minister Dr Somsak Chunharas said yesterday. 

Thailand’s official statistics showed that in 2012, 89,775 persons died of NCDs, mostly from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases, said Dr Somsak.

Of the total, 37 per cent–33,545 persons  died while they were young and less than 60-year-old.

If left untreated, non-communicable diseases are likely to affect household economies because the death of a major income earner leaves a gap in family incomes, and in some cases aging people could be left alone if the family has only one child, he said.

The major causes of the diseases are attributed to eating habits–unhygienic food– and a lack of exercise, Dr Somsak said.

He quoted information released by the National Statistical Office in 2011 saying that only 26 per cent of Thais aged above 11 engage in exercise and that most Thais love to eat spicy food.

On average they eat only 1.8 grammes of vegetables and fruits a day while the UN World Health Organisation says that people should eat between 4-6 grammes daily.

In a related problem, some 17 million Thais above age 5 suffer from obesity, and there are signs that the number would rise about 4 million yearly, according to 2012 data released by the Public Health Ministry.

It is also found that Thai children aged below five are suffering from obesity, second highest after Indonesia among Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries.

Related government agencies have been assigned to tackle the problem, he said.