Hypertension is among the top five morbidities prevalent among the elderly population in Bhutan following common cold, musculoskeletal disorders, skin diseases, peptic ulcer syndrome, according to a recent report released by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB).
Musculo-skeletal disorders and hypertension saw a steady increase between 2011 and 2016. However, diabetes and other digestive diseases are becoming common among elderly people. The Annual Health Bulletin (AHB) 2017 revealed that of the total 12,118 diabetes cases reported in 2016, 3,529 were reported by the elderly population.
Other diseases common among the older population are other nervous including peripheral disorders, other eye disorders, acute Pharyngitis/tonsillitis, and other respiratory and nose diseases.
The NSB report on understanding the situation of elderly citizens in Bhutan said that it was hoped this might shed some light to the policy makers and implementers in the areas of elderly people’s health that are in need of attention.
The AHB 2017 states that among the top five diseases prevalent among the elderly population, 16,546 elderly people suffer from common cold, followed by other musculoskeletal disorders with 15,419 cases. It was followed by skin disease and hypertension with 11,491 and 9,968 cases respectively. A total 7,406 cases of peptic ulcer syndrome were also reported by the elderly population in 2016.
United Nations defines older people as those who are above 60 years of age. Even in Bhutan, age 60 and above is described as older but for health data analysis, age 65 and above is considered elderly.
However, Article 20 of Bhutan Civil Service Rules (BCSR) 2012 prescribes different retirement for civil servants in different levels. The BCSR has fixed retirement age for those in grade three and above to 60 years, whereas for those in grade four and eight, the retirement is fixed at 58 and those in grades nine and below at 56 years.
The number of elderly people of age 60 years and above in 2005 was 44,319 which is 6.98% of the total population. The elderly population has been increasing and is projected to increase to 58,804 by 2015 which is 7.54% of the population.
According to the report, though the increase in the elderly population could be attributed to the improvement in health sector and living standard – improved socioeconomic condition, one challenge now is ever increasing trend of morbidity and comorbidity (which means that there is presence of one or more additional disease or disorders co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder) among elderly people.
“If healthy ageing is what we want to promote, it is crucial for the country to now either bring in or train our own geriatrician who can better understand and treat old age morbidities,” states the report, adding that the habit of maintaining a health diary for every citizen after a certain age needs to be promoted. “This would make it easier for the medical personnel to understand the pattern of diseases among elderly people and prescribe them medications and treatments accordingly.”
It also states that to reduce the incidence of morbidity among the elderly population, it is important that a track record of elderly population’s health status is maintained.
Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu