At least 32 in a year at JDWNRH alone

Thinley Namgay 

Almost three people died in a month at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) due to alcohol liver diseases (ALD),  a Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies (CBS) research found.

Between 2017 and August 2021, 596 ALD patients of which 329 men and 267 women were admitted to the medical ward at JDWNRH. Of the 596 patients, 160 died. Housewives constitute 23.8 percent of the total deaths.

The hospital receives almost 11 ALD patients a month as per the research. The most affected group are in the age group of 25 years to 59 years, which is 55.9 percent.  Civil servants constitute 7.8 percent.

Of the 596 ALD patients, 427 recovered.

More than half of the patients admitted for ALD treatment at JDWNRH were currently residing in Thimphu. The National Traditional Medicine Hospital (NTMH) in Thimphu also recorded 289 people visiting the hospital for alcohol cessation therapy between 2019 and 2021 of which 44 percent were female.

CBS researcher Drungtsho Jigme Singye said that alcohol liver disease continues to be the leading cause of death in Bhutan since early 2000. “Out of the 2,496 reported deaths in 2020, 6.65 percent of deaths were due to ALD. It continues to be the leading cause of death in the country.”

“This incidence is in parallel with what WHO stated earlier.  WHO states that Bhutan has the highest alcohol consumption figures in South Asian regions with per capita adult consumption of 8.47 litres, which is much higher than the global consumption of 6.2 litres.”

Data with JDWNRH and NTMH show that the number of ALD cases is more among men.  Drungtsho Jigme Singye said alcohol has negative social implications. “Seventy percent of the domestic violence in the country happened when under the influence of alcohol. More than half of the psychiatric disorder patients admitted at JDWNRH were due to alcohol,” he said.

The research recommends that relevant stakeholders reinforce and implement strictly the National Policy and Strategic Framework to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol 2015-2020.