ALD continues to be major cause of death in the country

While the total mortality has decreased compared to 2020, the cause of death has not

Although the number of deaths caused due to morbidities has decreased, Alcohol Liver Disease (ALD) has remained the leading cause of mortality in the country since a decade ago.

In 2021, 141 deaths were reported due to ALD, which is a decrease of about 25 deaths from 2020.

Aside from ALD, other comorbidities such as cardiovascular illness, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, and respiratory disease witnessed a decline of death rates in 2021 when compared to the previous year.

According to data with the Ministry of Health (MoH), the country recorded 1,005 morbidity-related deaths in 2021. While the total mortality has decreased compared to 2020, the cause of death has not.

ALD is still the leading cause of death in the country, accounting for 14.02% (141 deaths), followed by other circulatory diseases (89 deaths) in 2021.

An official from the MoH said, “The leading cause of death in health facilities over the past three years was alcohol liver disease, which kills about 150 people on average every year.”

He added that the reason for ALD being the leading cause of death in the country could be due to the high social and cultural significance of alcohol in the country.

Aside from death, alcohol also has a negative impact on people’s mental health. As a result, mental and behavioral illnesses caused by alcohol surged to over 1,500 instances last year.

Meanwhile, the death rate from ALD has decreased in 2021 compared to the previous year, but the number of persons affected by ALD has been increasing annually, with the majority of those affected falling into the age group of 25-49 years.

According to the National STEP survey, 2019, 42.9% of the population were found to be current drinkers, among which 51.3% were heavy episodic drinkers. The prevalence of heavy episodic drinkers in the population was 17.5%.

The health official also said that in the last three years, health facilities across the country recorded an average of 2,500 cases, with the number of cases increasing annually, with the highest number of cases being 2,771 in 2021, followed by 2,624 in 2020, and 2,392 in 2019, indicating an annual increase in ALD cases.

Further, the reason for people indulging in alcohol could be that alcohol is cheap and widely available in the country compared to other countries.

According to the National Council’s interim report on the examination of harmful alcohol consumption, there are over 4,000 retail, wholesale, and bar outlets in the country.

Meanwhile, during the winter session of the parliament in 2021, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo also expressed worry about lifting the prohibition on the issuance of bar licenses in the country.

Further, in comparison, 1,273 deaths were recorded during the previous pre-covid period in 2019, indicating a 21.03% decrease in mortality rate. 

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu