It is probably the last thing an already burdened healthcare system here needed: the worrying disclosure that people have become less healthy. The latest National Population Health Survey showed an increase in chronic diseases and unhealthy lifestyles. The alarming trends included a 50 per cent spike in the number of people with high blood pressure in just two years - up from 24.2 per cent in 2017 to 35.5 per cent during the eight-month survey period that ended in March last year. Also, in spite of a five-year war on the disease, the diabetes prevalence rate rose from 8.8 per cent to 9.5 per cent in the same period. Binge drinking was up from 8.8 per cent to 10.5 per cent, especially among young men. But there was some good news. Cigarette smoking fell from 11.8 per cent to 10.1 per cent, following changes to raise the minimum legal age for smoking.
One particular reason for concern is the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in people embracing more sedentary lifestyles. Work-from-home regimes and a general restriction on social interactions outside the home have led to many slipping into a default mode based on a minimally active life. The health consequences stemming from these choices would crop up no doubt in future surveys. But this latest survey itself provides cautionary evidence of and ample warning against letting up on an active lifestyle. It is necessary for residents to take charge of their health precisely because the times are so pressing. The worst of Covid-19 will pass, but what will remain a threat is the increase in prevalence in obesity and high-risk body mass index, which can potentially increase the risk of developing chronic diseases.