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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2017

Alarming prevalence and clustering of modifiable noncommunicable disease risk factors among adults in Bhutan: a nationwide cross-sectional community survey

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2017
Dorji Pelzom, Petros Isaakidis, Myo Minn Oo, Mongal Singh Gurung, Pemba Yangchen



Bhutan is currently facing a double burden of non-communicable (NCDs) and communicable diseases, with rising trends of NCDs. The 2014 STEPS survey identified high prevalence of several NCD risk factors; however, associations with socio-demographic characteristics as well as clustering of risk factors were not assessed. This study aimed to determine the distribution and clustering of modifiable NCD risk factors among adults in Bhutan and their demographic and social determinants.


This was secondary analysis of data from NCD Risk Factors WHO STEPS Survey 2014 in Bhutan. A weighted analysis was conducted to calculate the prevalence of NCD risk factors, and associations were explored using weighted log-binomial regression models.


This study included 2822 Bhutanese aged 18–69 years; 52% were 18–39 years, 62% were female, and 69% were rural resident. Prevalence of high salt intake, unhealthy diet and tobacco use were 99, 67 and 25% respectively. Raised blood pressure was the commonest (36%) modifiable biological risk factor followed by overweight (33%). The median NCD risk factors per person was 3 (Inter Quartile Range: 2–4); 52.5%% had > = 3 risk factors. A statistically significant difference was found between male vs. female in alcohol consumption(aPR 0.71, 95% CI: 0.53–0.97), low physical activity(aPR 2.06, 95% CI: 1.54–2.75), impaired fasting glycaemia(aPR 1.24, 95% CI: 1.01–1.52), and being overweight(aPR 1.46, 95% CI: 1.31–1.63). Low physical activity was more common among those with secondary and above education level vs. those without any formal education(aPR 1.71, 95% CI: 1.24–2.35), and among those residing in urban areas vs. those in rural(aPR 3.43, 95% CI: 2.27–5.18). Older participants and urban residents were more likely to have > = 3 NCD risk factors compared to younger(aPR 1.46, 95% CI: 1.35–1.58) and rural residents(aPR 1.21, 95% CI: 1.10–1.32).


Lifestyle modifications at the population level are urgently required in Bhutan as several NCD risk factors such as high salt intake, unhealthy diet, overweight, and high blood pressure were alarmingly high and frequently clustered. Moreover there is a need to consider policy and socio-political and economic factors that have undermined global and national progress to address the rise of NCDs and their risk factors in Bhutan as elsewhere.
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