51 percent of senior citizens have at least three chronic diseases: survey


TAIPEI, Taiwan — More than 50 percent of Taiwan’s senior citizens said they suffer from at least three professionally-diagnosed chronic diseases, with hypertension topping the list, a Department of Health poll has revealed.

Hsiao Mei-ling, director of the Bureau of Health Promotion under the Cabinet-level DOH, said the bureau conducted a survey on senior citizens’ overall condition in 2007 as part of a long-term study on the mental and physical health of middle-aged and elderly individuals.

A total of 2,700 valid samples were collected.

Survey results showed that the five most common chronic diseases troubling senior citizens were hypertension, cataracts, heart disease, ulcers or gastric diseases, and arthritis or rheumatism, in that order, according to Hsiao.

In the survey, nearly 90 percent of the respondents said they were suffering from at least one chronic disease, 70 percent said they were suffering from two or more chronic diseases, and 51 percent said they had three or more chronic diseases.

The survey also found that women were more vulnerable to chronic diseases than males.

According to the survey, hypertension and cataracts were the two most common chronic diseases for both elderly men and women.

The third through fifth most common chronic illnesses among women were osteoporosis, arthritis or rheumatism, and heart diseases. For elderly men, the third through fifth most common chronic ailments were heart disease, ulcers or gastric diseases, and diabetes.

Among the respondents, 16 percent said they smoked and 24 percent said they consumed alcohol, while 34 percent said they did not exercise regularly. In comparison, women exercised less than men, according to the survey.

More than half of the respondents said they had undergone physical checkups over the past year. The survey also found that the higher the individual’s education level, the more frequently they undergo physical exams.

Comparing the findings with those recorded in a similar survey four years ago, the number of smokers dropped from 19 percent to 16 percent, marking the most significant improvement among various measurement indicators. The kidney functions examination rate also went up significantly from 44 percent to 50 percent.

Hsiao said the presence of chronic disease tends to be closely related to personal lifestyle and health habits.

Noting that regular health checkups and constant monitoring of blood pressure and blood sugar levels can help prevent chronic diseases and cancer, she urged senior citizens to make good use of the annual free checkup benefits under the national health insurance program and free health services offered by city and county governments to improve their health and lives.