Is alcohol good or bad for health? Figures reveal Hong Kong as city of big drinkers

Health experts warn that those who drink before they are 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 1:02pm

While studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption to a lower likelihood of heart disease, scientists remain concerned about the health risks associated with drinking.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is a “causal relationship between alcohol consumption and more than 200 health conditions”.

Drinking may lead to depression or anxiety, cirrhosis and pancreatitis, cancer, suicide and violence, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a weakened immune system, the organisation said in a 2014 report.

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According to the city’s Department of Health, drinking may also affect the development of the nervous system of the young. Those who start drinking before the age of 12 are more likely to exhibit violent behaviour.

Those who drink before they are 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life compared to those who start at or after the age of 21, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

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“Alcohol is an addictive substance,” Hong Kong health official Dr Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen previously said. “The earlier young people start drinking, the easier it is for them to drink more later in life and get addicted.”

A government survey in the city from 2014 found that 56.2 per cent of students had tried alcohol, with 21.9 per cent aged 10 or below.

Hongkongers consume around 16.4 million litres of pure alcohol – the equivalent in volume of about 6 1/2 swimming pools – every year, according to government statistics.

Almost half the alcohol consumed in the city is beer, followed by spirits and wine, data from 2010 showed.

Easy access to booze for minors in Hong Kong

The city’s wine industry was boosted by the removal of all import duties on the drink in February 2008, making Hong Kong the biggest consumer per capita in Asia.

Total spending on wine reached HK$3.4 billion in 2012, according to a report from Vinexpo, the wine and spirits trade show.

A government survey in 2014 also found that among those aged 18 to 64, close to 14 per cent drank at least once a week, and 6.8 per cent binge drank at least once a month.