Intake low here but binge drinking on the rise

The rate of binge drinking in Singapore has been on the rise, according to the Health Ministry and Health Promotion Board.
The rate of binge drinking in Singapore has been on the rise, according to the Health Ministry and Health Promotion Board. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's per capita alcohol consumption rate is among the lowest in Asia, data from the World Health Organisation shows.

In 2015, Singaporeans consumed 2.9 litres of alcohol on average, compared with 10.9 litres of alcohol downed by South Koreans, who topped the list.

But that does not mean that there is little cause for concern. According to a 2016/2017 National Population Health Survey conducted by the Health Ministry and Health Promotion Board, the rate of binge drinking here has been on the rise.

It stood at 9 per cent last year, more than double the 4.4 per cent measured in a National Health Surveillance Survey in 2007.

Dr Desmond Wai, a gastroenterologist at the Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, said Singapore is generally considered a low-alcohol-consumption country.

But Dr Wai, who regularly sees patients with liver-related problems, said it can be difficult to estimate how much patients actually drink as many lie to their doctors for fear their medical bills will be rejected by insurance companies.

The results of the latest study published in The Lancet fly in the face of the popular belief that a limit of 14 drinks a week is "safe", he said.

 

"This study balances both the benefits and harms of alcohol. Overall, alcohol increases mortality over and above its benefits in protecting against heart disease," said Dr Wai. "The safest limit for alcohol is zero."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2018, with the headline 'Intake low here but binge drinking on the rise'. Subscribe