Vietnam in good health despite high alcohol, tobacco consumption

By Phan Anh   March 11, 2019 | 01:21 am PT
Vietnam in good health despite high alcohol, tobacco consumption
Elderly people exercise at a public park in Hanoi, Vietnam October 9, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Kham
Vietnam 11th healthiest country in the world, according to LetterOne, while other studies paint a picture of excesses.

The Global Wellness Index compiled by Luxembourg-based investment firm LetterOne covered 150 countries and drew on findings by the World Health Organization, the World Happiness Report as well as public health data.

It ranked countries on 10 criteria: blood pressure, blood glucose, obesity, depression, happiness, alcohol use, tobacco use, exercise, healthy life expectancy, and government spending on healthcare.

Countries were ranked on a scale from 0 to 1, with 0 the worst and 1 the best.

Vietnam was ranked 11th with 0.63 points, the same as Cambodia. In Southeast Asia, Vietnam was ranked higher than Myanmar (16th), Malaysia (22nd) and Thailand (25th), but lower than the Philippines (4th), Singapore (7th) and Laos (8th).

Canada leads the ranking while South Africa comes at bottom.

Vietnam’s ratings on blood glucose, blood pressure, obesity, depression, alcohol use, inactivity and life expectancy were all considered "good," while no data was available on tobacco use, according to the index report.

The report’s findings, however, contradicted other studies highlighting Vietnam’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle and rampant alcohol and tobacco use.

Vietnamese men consume the most alcohol in the world, drinking over five standard drinks a day, meaning 50 grams of alcohol, on average, according to the 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study. The country is also the biggest beer market in Southeast Asia, partly owing to its famous beer drinking culture at gatherings, events and closing business deals.

Vietnam also has one of the highest numbers of smokers in the world, with as many as 15.6 million smokers spending VND31 trillion ($1.36 billion) on cigarettes every year. The country is among the top 15 in the world with the lowest tobacco prices, according to the World Health Organization.

In addition, Vietnamese are among the most sedentary people in the world, accroding to a 2017 survey by Stanford University. On average, Vietnamese people walk around 3,600 steps a day, far less than the global average of 5,000. Diet-related non-communicable diseases such as obesity are also becoming more common among Vietnamese youth, according to the Ministry of Health.

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