The number of Malaysians suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCD) like high cholesterol levels and obesity increased significantly between 2006 and 2015, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS).
Even worse, the survey also showed that many sufferers when polled were unaware of their deteriorating health conditions.
The NHMS 2015 unveiled today found that 9.6 million people aged above 18 years or nearly half the population at 47.7 per cent had high cholesterol levels. This is more than double the findings in NHMS 2006, which revealed that 20.6 per cent suffered from the condition.
“Four out of five of them did not know they had high cholesterol. This involved 38.6 per cent or an estimated 7.8 million Malaysians,” Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam told a media briefing on the study at his ministry today.
The study also found that obesity among children doubled in the same period to 11.9 per cent or an estimated one million of those aged below 18 years.
The NHMS 2006 survey reported the prevalence of obesity in children at 5.4 per cent, while the figure spiked to 6.1 per cent in the NHMS 2011 study.
NHMS 2015 also reported that as of last year, 17.7 per cent or 3.3 million Malaysians aged above 18 years were obese, while 30 per cent or 5.6 million were overweight.
There was also an increase in diabetes cases among those aged above 18 years between 2006 and last year, the study showed, from 11.6 per cent in 2006 to 15.2 per cent in 2011 and 17.5 per cent or 3.5 million people last year.
“However, more than half of those living with diabetes did not know they had the disease. This encompasses 9.2 per cent or an estimate of 1.8 million people,” Subramaniam said.
Cases of hypertension, however, reported some improvement, with 30.3 per cent or 6.1 million people aged above 18 suffering from it, compared to 32.7 per cent in 2011 and 32.2 per cent in 2006.
The minister said, however, that like diabetes, more than half of those with hypertension were not aware of it.
“It was prevalent in 17.2 per cent or almost 3.5 million people,” he said.
He added that despite the various campaigns on the dangers of smoking, the number of smokers here did not decrease.
The survey found that an estimated five million people or 22.8 per cent of those above 15 years were smokers, with over 4.8 million being male.
The usage of smokeless tobacco also increased from 0.7 per cent in 2011 to 10.9 per cent last year, he said.
“Smokeless tobacco includes activities such as tobacco sniffing, tobacco chewing and electronic cigarettes,” said Subramaniam.
He added that more effort was needed to increase health awareness among Malaysians.
“Now it’s the responsibility of all parties, which is the multi-sectoral government and not just the Health Ministry, all the government agencies and the people, who should take heed from the survey, so that we can bring about change to the current situation,” he said.
The minister added that a multi-ministry task force headed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will be formed to look into better ways to encourage healthy lifestyles.
The NHMS is conducted periodically once every four years, with the cycle beginning with modules related to the risks of NCD and the use of public healthcare services.
NHMS 2015 is the first year of the four year cycle, which involved the participation of approximately 10,000 households that were picked at random and almost 30,000 respondents from all over Malaysia.
The survey was carried out door-to-door from March to June last year.
Source : The Malay Mail Online - 6 June 2016 (Monday), http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/malaysians-increasingly-unhealthy-but-dont-know-it-survey-shows