More women than men take vitamin pills, survey reveals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2006, 12:00am

More women than men take health supplements and so do people from more educated and financially well-off households, according to latest government figures released yesterday.

More than one in five people aged 15 and over - nearly 1.3 million people - had taken health supplements in the past 12 months, latest figures released by the Census and Statistics Department show.

These include non-prescription orally consumed products for improving health, weight control and improving body shape and physical appearance.

President of the Hong Kong Medical Association Choi Kin said the findings were expected as women were more health conscious than men and people with higher incomes could afford the supplements which do not come cheap.

The survey found of people aged 15 and over who took supplements, 60.5 per cent were women and 39.5 per cent were men.

Health supplements are taken most by people aged between 35 and 44 (29.3 per cent), followed by those in the 45 to 54 age group (24.5 per cent).

People from higher income households take more health supplements than those from lower income households, the survey found.

Dr Choi explained this was because health supplements were expensive and lower income families could not afford them. But he said health supplements were not really necessary. 'If you have a healthy diet, you are not really losing out. All these vitamins can be found in a balanced diet. In fact, the costs of these supplements outweigh the benefits you get from them. A lot of the money goes into advertising.'

Dr Choi said the figures also reflected that women are more health conscious than men. 'On the whole, women tend to be more health conscious whereas men tend to be more conscious about their work.'

He also warned against overdose of these supplements which can cause damage to health. He said excessive intake of vitamin A such as fish oils could cause course skin, an enlarged liver or in the case of pregnant women, a malformed baby.

Excessive vitamin B and calcium could cause kidney stones and damage. He advised the public to seek advice from their family doctors before buying such products.