Alcohol drinking in social gatherings and celebrations is quite common worldwide, including in Hong Kong. However, many people are unaware of the harm that alcohol does to their health.
Alcohol has both immediate and long-term effects on health. Drinking alcohol in large amount in a short period of time can lead to acute harm due to accident or violence to oneself and others. It also increases the risk of intoxication, even death. Being classified as a Group 1 carcinogen to humans, alcohol consumption causes cancers of mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum, and female breasts. The more alcohol consumed and cumulated over time, the higher the risk of suffering from a wide range of long term illnesses including gastritis, gastric ulcers, liver cirrhosis, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and mental illnesses. Pregnant women who drink alcohol have higher chance of giving birth to babies with birth defects, growth and developmental problems. Alcohol use is also associated with many serious social issues, including domestic violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace.
Situation in Hong Kong
The Health Behaviour Survey 2018/19 found that 8.8% of community-dwelling persons aged 15 years or above drank alcoholic beverages regularly (i.e. at least one day a week) in the 12 months preceding the survey. The proportions of regular drinkers were higher among males (15.0%) than females (3.2%). By age group, the proportions of regular drinkers were highest among people aged 55-64 (12.0%) and relatively lower among people aged 15-24 (2.6%) and those aged 85 or above (2.3%). The survey also revealed that 2.9% of people aged 15 or above had binge drinking (i.e. drinking at least 5 cans of beer, 5 glasses of table wines or 5 pegs of spirits on a single occasion) at least monthly in the 12 months preceding the survey.
Non-drinkers should not start drinking for the perceived health benefits of alcohol consumption. For those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages, limit the drink or even quit drinking to minimise alcohol-related harm. Do not binge drink at any time. Pregnant women, children and adolescents, people feeling unwell or on drug treatment as well as those operating machine or driving, should not drink.
To learn more about minimising alcohol-related harm, please visit related webpage (Alcohol and Health) on the "Change for Health" website of the Department of Health.