Life Expectancy in Thailand. Mortality Statistics

 

Life Expectancy in Thailand is compared below with the data in other countries in Asia. Life expectancy in South East and East Asian countries compares well to life expectancy in developed countries. Expenditure is Asia (except Japan) overall is lower as a proportion of GDP, which of course is lower in most South East Asian countries than in developed countries.

Expenditure is by far the highest in the U.S.A., with no obvious additional benefit in life expectancy [updated 2015, GDP 2013, health expenditures 2012]


Country
Life Expectancy (M/F)
GDP (US$)*
Health Expenditure (US$)
Expenditure on Health
as % of GDP
Thailand
71/79
13,510 (2013)
386 (2012)
3.9
Japan
80/87
37,630
3,578
10.1
Vietnam
71/80
5,030
234
6.6
Malaysia
72/76
22,717
692
4.0
Singapore
80/85
76,850
2,881
4.7
China
74/77
11,850
480
5.4
 
Belgium
78/83
40,280
4,320
10.8
U.S.A.
76/81
53,960
8,895
17.9

* : GDP by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) International $

 

Below we compare causes of death (males and females combined) in Thailand, close neighbors Malaysia and Vietnam, China, Japan, Belgium (representing Europe) and U.S.A. (source WHO, for the years 2012-2013, last updated here 2015)

 

Thailand
China
Vietnam
Japan
Belgium
U.S.A.
Total number of Deaths
(2013)
506,800
10,044,900
527,900
1,212,600
110,200
2,688,900
Ischemic Heart Disease 13.7% 15.3% 7% 8.6% 10.5% 14.8%
Stroke 10.3% 23.7% 21.7% 10.1% 6.8% 5%
Lower Respiratory
Infections
9.4% 2.1% 4.8% 10.6% 4.3% 2%
Road Injury 5%*** 2.8% 4.1%      
COPD 4.7% 10.3% 4.9%   4.6% 5.8%
HIV/AIDS 4.1%          
Diabetes 4.1% 2.3% 2.6%   1.8% 2.7%
Liver Cancer** 3.8% 3.9% 3.9% 2.7%    
Trachea & Lung
Cancer
3.5% 6.1% 3.7% 6% 6.6% 6.5%
Kidney Disease 2.5%     2.4%   2.2%
Stomach Cancer  

3.3%

  4.3%    
Hypertensive Heart
Disease
  2.5%       2.7%
Breast Cancer         2.5%  
Tuberculosis     3.3%      
Liver Cirrhosis     2.7%      
Colon & Rectum Cancer       4% 3.3% 2.3%
Pancreas Cancer       2.5%    
Self-Harm       2.7% 1.8%  
Alzheimer & Dementias         6.6% 9.5%

* : Registration of Death is partial in most countries, so no absolute numbers are given, only percentages. Percentage of cause of death are given for 2012
** : For more info about Liver Disease and Cancer in Thailand
*** : This corresponds to a number of accident deaths of 24,900 which is much higher than statistics provided by some Thai sources.

** : Statistics for cancer in Thailand, and the major health problem caused by the most common cancer in Thailand : Liver Cancer.
*** : Data Unaids.org (2007). The numbers are estimates (low and high estimates deviate widely). Percentage is an estimate (estimated number of deaths to AIDS/HIV in 2007 divided by total deaths in 2004, sorry). The number for deaths in Thailand is much lower than the number in 2001 (estimated at 66,000).

 

Communicable (infectious) diseases still cause a lot of deaths in Thailand, though the number of deaths due to AIDS is declining. Injuries (including car and motorcycle accidents) seem to be much higher in Asia than in the one country of Europe we checked on.

Cancer deaths and deaths due to cardiovascular disease appear to be on the lower side. Numbers surely tend to go up with longer overall life expectance and development.

Of course, for the moment, we all have to die so the sum of all causes of mortality should be 100%. And when in one country there are more deaths of let's say accidents, it has to be compensated by less deaths from other causes. Nevertheless some comments are allowed, also regarding some health risk factors as perceived for Thailand.

First and foremost, life expectancy in Thailand is comparable to life expectancy in other countries in Asia with a similar level of development.

As indicated in bolt, Thailand still has a very substantial amount of (young) people dying from HIV/AIDS. While there is no secrecy about this issue, compared to its significance relatively little attention is paid in the media about this issue. It seems to be accepted that about 1% of the population is HIV-positive. Of course this figure should be much higher in sexually active young groups of the population. Thailand has to be commended for pursuing an open and active policy about preventing Aids. As an example, condoms are to be found clearly visible at most convenience stores. On the other hand, taboos still exists and we do not really see people buying condoms when being viewed by others. Certainly, young females may be very hesitant. In any case, the numbers above are worth remembering when engaging in casual sexual encounters in the country. However, death rates have declined substantially between 2001 and 2007 (see above). According to the Public Health Ministry dd. end 2010, somewhere around 12,000 people were newly infected in 2010 (or 2009, the published article is somewhat unclear regarding dates). It is startling to find out that since the beginning of the AIDS-sage, 1,161,244 people were infected of which 644,128 people have died!

As an added note (while this is not allowed in certain countries) HIV-testing is routinely performed in hospitals when you are going in for some minor procedures or surgery.

Injuries and Accidents

Way to many young people still die unnecessarily in Thailand due to car and (mostly) motorcycle accidents. The actual number of deaths on the road is reportedly around 30,000. Many more of course get maimed for live, or require expensive medical care (if they can afford it). Reasons are discussed forever. High alcohol consumption is to blame and the government has started implementing various measures to reduce alcohol consumption. Thailand has one of the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the world.
Motorcycle deaths of course are mostly among young males. Still too common (especially in the side streets) one sees youngsters driving around without helmet protection. Motorcycle taxis seem to be allowed to carry passengers without requiring them to wear an helmet.
Especially in view of the rapidly declining birth rates in Thailand, the thousands of people killed yearly in motorcycle accidents will be surely missed in the future.

 

Motorcycle taxis waiting for customers at the entrance to Sukhumvit soi 19. It is a fast but not safe way of transport down the sois. We recommend you walk at all times.

 

Besides alcohol, driving carelessly and dangerously is mainly an educational problem. There seems to be serious difficulty in making young males realize that the time of the 'male-warrior' has passed, and that macho behaviour is not really that necessary anymore. The 'boys will be boys' attitude however is still well engrained in the culture. Behavioural change in this regard is highly warranted.
As far as we know, it is still allowed to use mobile phones while driving. We have been almost ran over by cars on intersection by drivers on the phone. In return, we have received a Thai smile on occasion. We remember reading a comment in one newspapers that Thai people are 'different' and are able to make phone conversations while driving without any problem.

According to the statistics above, cardiovascular disease is still somewhat less prevalent in Thailand, but surely on the rise. Some comments :

Smoking

Thailand has been taking measures that both can be called progressive and repressive to make it more difficult to smoke. Smoking though is still a cheap addiction and habit, and cigarettes can be bought at about one fifth of the price asked in Western countries. They are widely available at the thousands of 7-Eleven convenience stores around Bangkok.

Measures taken :
Since end 2002 smoking in restaurants and most offices, hotel lobbies and indoor areas has been disallowed. More recently smoking has also been disallowed in bars. It is common to see people enjoying a smoke in the midday heat outside of restaurants, office buildings etc.
Cigarette packages have rather distasteful and large pictures on them, to deter smoking. You can see disformed teeth, destroyed lungs, and other graphic images displayed.
Shops and supermarkets are not allowed anymore to openly display cigarettes or tobacco. Only a sign indicating that tobacco is available,  is permitted.

Food

As in most countries, the attention given to reduce smoking, has resulted in giving less due to other causes of poor health, in particular educating the population about proper eating habits.

Thailand has allowed the opening of numerous international fast food chains, not exactly reknown for providing proper food. Even hospitals (Bumrungrad Hospital) have found is justified to allow the opening of fast food outlets on their premises, giving a wrong message.
Food at foodstalls in the streets of Bangkok (where many thousands of people eat every day) use oil that is of course contaminated by car exhausts, and/or oil that has been reused over and over again, giving rise to a highly toxic substance to cook with. Most regular restaurants (as in most countries) do not indicate what kind of oils they use to prepare your food. Cheap oils, such as palm oil and coconut oil, are highly popular and used in most smaller restaurants around town, including the restaurants of small hotels. These oils are not recommended if you are worried about your cholesterol levels.
The message is of course, that it is safer to eat at home, if you can do the effort. You will know which ingredients you are using (up to a point).
Positive is that Thai food generally contains less meat than in more developed countries. Poultry and fish are consumed more, though often deeply fried.

Till about 10 years ago, it was uncommon, but nowadays one regularly sees morbidly overweight people, and obesity is very much on the rise in Thailand. Are the lite, attractive yound Thai women about to disappear? They will if no change in eating habits occurs.

Environmental Pollution

There is possible somewhat less pollution on the streets in Bangkok than before. However, it is still common to see buses driving around ejecting dark black exhaust fumes. Most of these are actually public buses, so one would expect the authorities can get this under control. There are regular reports about there being high content of small particles in the Bangkok air, which can get into the lungs easily and contribute to various diseases. Respiratory disease in Bangkok is common, and a lot of foreign residents living here also report more frequent respiratory problems. When staying in Bangkok, we should recommend to have airfiltering equipment in your main rooms. At least you can somewhat improve the environment at home, (and also make up for not really well maintained airconditioning units in many apartments)