A university researcher says his new survey reveals it's time for a programme devoted to dealing with alcohol abuse Nearly 10 per cent of working-age Hongkongers use alcohol to cope with problems such as stress and depression, a survey has revealed. The study - in which Chinese University academics interviewed 5,004 people aged between 18 and 65 - found that men resort to alcohol four times more than tranquillisers or sleeping pills. It also found that women become increasingly prone to use alcohol when they are emotionally upset. Research head Lee Sing, a psychiatry professor at the university, said although alcohol abuse in Hong Kong had not become as severe as in Japan and South Korea, it was time the city set up a centre devoted to treatment and prevention of alcohol abuse. The telephone poll's findings show that 12.7 per cent of men used alcohol to cope with mood problems over the past 12 months, compared with 3.1 per cent who used tranquillisers or sleeping pills. The study indicated 6.4 per cent of women resorted to alcohol, with 6.6 per cent using tranquillisers or sleeping pills. Based on the findings, it is estimated that more than 290,000 men and 160,000 women - 9.4 per cent of all people within the polled age group - have used alcohol to cope with mood problems. But Professor Lee warned that the gap between the sexes in the use of alcohol narrowed when mood problems became serious. The findings show about one in three men with depression resorts to alcohol, compared with almost one in five women, or 18.8 per cent. The incidence rose to more than one in four (26.2 per cent) among women with severe depression. Professor Lee said he strongly believed that drinking was growing in popularity because of increasing stress levels and changes in Hong Kong's culture. 'Many people believe Chinese people are moderate. However, alcohol dependency is something one cannot resist, regardless of background,' Professor Lee said. 'Alcohol is affordable, more socially acceptable [than other drugs] and easily accessed. 'Once people become used to resorting to drink to relieve stress, they are exposing themselves to a higher risk of alcohol dependency.' Increasing equality between the sexes and westernisation had led to more women drinkers. 'Back in ancient China, women would simply cry, or voice their complaints to their peers when they were under stress. But we are seeing more women going to pubs and having a wine or beer,' Professor Lee said. He warned that alcohol abuse could incur serious social and economic costs, such as domestic violence and poor work performance. He also warned of the link between depression and drinking. About 70 per cent of patients with depression have a drinking problem, while half of alcohol-dependent patients are diagnosed with depression, according to established medical data.