Health officials say public safety is top of the agenda, but Bangkok remains one of the deadliest cities in the world. Here are some of the most likely ways you won’t live to see tomorrow.
Health officials say public safety remains at the top of the agenda, and for good reason. In October alone, we’ve witnessed choking pollution, the tragic death of a young model and a high-profile suicide attempt. The fact is Bangkok remains one of the deadliest cities in the world, with Thailand today having one of the lowest life expectancy rates in Asia. These are 31 of the most likely ways you won’t live to see tomorrow.
1. Road Accidents
22,491 people were killed on Thailand’s roads in 2018—an eye-watering average of 60 deaths a day. Thailand’s road fatality rate remains one of the highest in the world, and motorcyclists are at the heart of the issue—they were involved in 74 percent of road deaths in 2018. The majority of victims are males aged 15-29, and Songkran is by far the deadliest time of year. Unsurprisingly, Thai police say speed and alcohol are often involved.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the disease killed over 100,000 Thais in 2018, making it the deadliest threat in the country. According to the agency, cancer deaths have been trending upwards in Thailand for the last ten years, with lung and liver cancers accounting for nearly half of all cancer-related deaths. Meat-laden diets, heavy drinking and chain-smoking in the world’s second most polluted city probably don’t help.
3. Heart Disease
Ischemic heart disease kills over 10,000 Thais a year, making it the second deadliest disease in the country. When you consider the lifestyle choices of your average Bangkokian—spending the weekdays stressed out at work and the weekends drinking, smoking and ending the night with a greasy meal—it’s no surprise that heart disease poses such a big threat.
Thailand has the highest rate of HIV infections in Southeast Asia. According to UNAIDS, 16,000 people in Thailand died of the disease in 2016. Alarmingly, HIV infections are rising for the first time since the 1990s. Public health officials are calling for better education around safe sex practices. That’s especially important for men who have sex with men and sex workers, who have a much higher risk of contracting HIV.
Thanks to widespread vaccination policies implemented in the ‘80s, your chances of contracting rabies from your neighborhood soi dog are quite low. However, 17 people did die from the disease in 2018, doubling the death toll from 2017. Health authorities cite a recent shortage of high-quality rabies vaccines for the uptick in deaths.
The Department of Disease Control announced a dengue fever epidemic this year, as there have been 28,785 reported cases across Thailand in 2019, including 43 deaths. And now health officials are warning that the dengue virus has spread from rural areas to Bangkok. Symptoms include a smorgasbord of unsavory conditions—severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, bruising, uncontrolled bleeding—and should be addressed immediately.
Many countries currently list the threat of terrorism in Thailand as high, mostly due to the ongoing violence in the south. However, in the wake of the non-deadly BTS bombings in August and the 2015 Erawan Shrine bombing that killed 20—and many other recent attacks in urban areas across the world—the risk of terrorism in Bangkok remains very real.
8. Going under
Bangkok is… sinking? If only we were joking. The city is estimated to be sinking up to two centimetres a year. Bangkok is among the world’s fastest-sinking cities and by some measures it has already slipped below sea level. The World Bank has predicted that 40 percent of Bangkok could be inundated as early as 2030 due to extreme rainfall and changes in weather patterns.
9. Liver disease
You might want to think twice next time you stop by a 7-Eleven to pick up a couple casual after-work Leos. Liver diseases killed over 18,000 Thais in 2017, with the highest concentration in Bangkok. That sum equates to about 50 people per day. Alcohol abuse is the number one cause of preventable liver diseases and a major contributor to traffic accidents and domestic violence.
10. Tong sia
While “Bangkok Belly” can strike anytime, it’s quite rare that food poisoning becomes deadly. However, the Health Information Unit Bureau of Health Policy and Strategy reports an average of 50 deaths a year due to “diarrhea of an infectious origin.” It’s not just street food, either—given some of our near-death experiences with even upscale restaurants in the city, that doesn’t come as a big surprise.
Depending on who you ask, those haphazard-looking telephone wires adorning the city are either a charming idiosyncrasy or a complete eyesore. As dangerous as they may look, they haven’t caused any deaths in the city, but there have been an eyebrow-raising amount of recent electrocution deaths. Three people have died due to faulty wiring after plugging in their phones this year.
According to the World Health Organization, Thailand is one of the 14 worst countries in the world when it comes to this infectious bacterial disease. Approximately 500 Bangkokians die each year of tuberculosis. The risk of contracting TB is much higher in cramped overcrowded conditions, such as the nightlife venues it has been found in across the city—makes you think a little differently about nights out in the club. See a doctor if you have a fever and cough that lasts over two weeks.
Stats from the Metropolitan Police Bureau show that robbery is a real threat in Bangkok. On average there are 29 cases of robbery reported in the city each day. Almost 300 people die during robberies annually.
The World Health Organization reports that Thailand has the most instances of child drowning among all Southeast Asian countries. Since 2000, over 23,000 children under the age of 15 have drowned in the kingdom—an average of five a day—making it the leading cause of death for children of this age group.
15. Death by spouse
Are you reading this in bed, curled up next to your loved one? Then here’s a good conversation starter. According to GunPolicy.org, there are over 10 million privately owned guns in Thailand, but only six million are legally registered. Many gun homicides in Thailand stem from fights between lovers—and occur with unregistered guns. How well do you know your spouse again?
According to the Journal of Diabetes Research, 30,000 Thais die of diabetes annually, making it one of the deadliest noncommunicable diseases in the country. We love a good sugar rush, but maybe it’s time we checked ourselves on the sweet treats.
The World Health Organization reports that, as of 2019, the equivalent of 10,000 people in Thailand die by suicide each year—the highest number per capita in ASEAN. Unfortunately, psychiatric resources are limited and people are often discouraged from seeking therapy. If you or someone you know experiences suicidal thoughts, we strongly encourage you to reach out to a crisis center in the city. You can call the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline at 02-713-6791 (English) and 02-713-6793 (Thai) or the Department of Mental Health’s hotline at 1323 (Thai).
An estimated 250,000 new cases of strokes are recorded in Thailand each year. About 50,000 of those patients lose their lives and around 30 percent become paralysed. While strokes can be fatal, death can usually be prevented if patients are aware of the symptoms and go directly to the hospital. Warning signs include: numbness or weakness, slurred speech, confusion or trouble understanding people, and dizziness or loss of balance. Smoking, high cholesterol and a sedentary lifestyle all increase the risk of stroke.
19. Hep B
Between six and 12 percent of people over 40 in Thailand develop chronic hepatitis B after being infected during childhood. According to the latest estimates from the Ministry of Public Health, almost 3.5 million people had chronic hepatitis B in 2011. In the long-term, this can lead to liver cirrhosis, cancer and death in serious cases.
20. Swine flu
The World Health Organization defines swine flu as “a human respiratory infection caused by an influenza strain that started in pigs.” A global outbreak in 2010 resulted in 16,000 deaths. Now, a new emergence of the epidemic has caused heavy fatalities in neighboring Myanmar, putting Thai health officials on high alert.
While the data is unclear on exactly how many people have died in building fires this year, it’s still a significant threat. Earlier this year, a fire ravaged Central World, killing two people and injuring at least another 16.
Lately, Bangkok has been notching all the records no one ever wanted, like being the second most polluted city on Earth, with an air quality index so high it’s in a stratosphere even the Mahanakhon tower can’t reach. Sadly, there just aren’t enough N95 masks to go around in this city.
Gun violence in Bangkok can be hard to track, because police are reluctant to release statistics. Some sources claim that in 2016 there were 3,000 gun-related deaths in the country. Other reports have suggested that Thailand’s gun violence rate is twice as high as in the United States. Yikes.
Despite vaping being illegal in Thailand, the haze of candy-flavored clouds floating up across the city suggests that law is toothless. But if reports out of the US are any indication, we might want to ask what we’re smoking. Or vaping. Whatever. US health officials say they’re aware of 29 deaths and at least 450 possible cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping. Maybe the authorities were onto something with the vaping ban.
Recently, extreme alcohol intoxication caused the death of Thai “pretty” Thitima Noraphanpiphat, better known as Lunabelle. While statistics on the number of deaths from alcohol poisoning in the city aren’t available, it’s safe to say excessive drinking is a big killer. Take it slow next time you’re out on the town. No one is actually impressed when you knock back shot after shot of Sangsom.
This tongue-twisting bacterial disease is caused by the spirochete bacterium often found in rat urine. In Thailand, 4,000 to 5,000 cases are reported annually, with about 10 deaths stemming from those cases. The disease mostly affects farmers, but with the number of rats we see patrolling the streets of Bangkok, don’t assume you’re safe from lepto here in the city.
27. Heat stroke
Thanks to climate change, the hottest city in the world is only getting hotter. With that comes a higher risk of dying from heat exposure. In the hot seasons from 2015 to 2018, there were a total of 158 deaths by heat stroke in Bangkok. Health officials urge people to stay hydrated and avoid alcohol when temperatures max out.
28. Fatal plunges
We love a good rooftop view, but be wary of balconies. Too many expats to count have appeared on the Thai Visa forums after suffering mysterious falls from their Pattaya condos. Others have suffered less questionable but equally shocking falls, including a Chiang Mai University student who fell to his death from a hotel balcony earlier this year.
This one comes as more than just a shock: Thailand has the second highest rate of people being struck by lightning in the world, second only to Mexico. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, 171 people have died after being struck by lightning in Thailand. In 2018 alone, lightning strikes injured 18 people and killed six.
Thailand is home to about five dozen venomous snake species. About 30 people die of snake bites in Thailand while 7,000 get bit. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, rest assured that you’ll most likely survive if you receive immediate medical attention.
31. Death by selfie
How far are you willing to go for that perfect Insta-shot? Recently, people have been taking the phrase “do it for the gram” a little too far and have ended up paying the ultimate price in search of that elusive, stunning pic. In 2016, at least 73 people died worldwide while taking selfies. Last year a Bangkok woman suffered the Darwinian fate as she was tragically killed trying to take a photo on the train tracks near Samsen station.