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National survey shows people in Singapore smoked less in 2020, but more turned to booze

SINGAPORE — People here were smoking less last year but more had turned to binge drinking, which had become more common than it was four years ago.

National survey shows people in Singapore smoked less in 2020, but more turned to booze

Binge drinking was more prevalent among men than women, a national survey found.

  • A national health survey found that binge drinking was a habit seen particularly among people aged between 18 and 39
  • Chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes were also on the rise
  • The Ministry of Health said the survey findings will be used to track progress towards national health targets, among others

 

SINGAPORE — People here were smoking less last year but more had turned to binge drinking, which had become more common than it was four years ago. 

The latest national survey showed that this increase was seen particularly among people aged between 18 and 39 and especially among men, where about one in five of them had a habit of binge drinking.

Chronic diseases such as  diabetes, hypertension or high blood pressure, and hyperlipidaemia or high blood cholesterol were also on the rise when compared to 2017. 

These were among the findings from a national population health survey released on Thursday (Nov 18), which tracks the health and risk factors, as well as lifestyle practices of Singapore residents aged 18 to 74 between July 2019 and March 2020.

About 6,000 residents completed household interviews and over two years, close to 5,000 attended a health examination.

The survey findings will be used by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Promotion Board to track progress towards national health targets and for planning and evaluation of health policies, programmes and healthcare services, MOH said.

SMOKING AND BINGE DRINKING

By and large, the prevalence of smoking among the population dipped from 11.8 per cent in 2017 to 10.1 per cent in 2020.

Last year, daily smoking was most common among:

  • Men (17 per cent) as compared to women (3.4 per cent)
  • Adults aged between 50 and 59 (13.4 per cent)

About half, or 48.3 per cent, of the daily smokers indicated that they had plans to quit smoking. However, only 19.3 per cent of them planned to do it within the next 12 months, the survey found. 

In recent years, the authorities have stepped up its tobacco control measures such as a display ban of tobacco products at points of sale and increasing the price of such products. 

The minimum legal age for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products has also been raised to 21 at the start of this year. 

The survey also found that binge drinking was becoming more common — 10.5 per cent of respondents said that they had a habit of binge drinking last year, up from 8.8 per cent in 2017.

Binge drinking was defined as the consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks for men, or four or more alcoholic drinks for women, in a single drinking session at least once in the past month before the survey. 

It was most prevalent among:

  • Men (14.6 per cent) than women (6.5 per cent)
  • Chinese (11.6 per cent) and Indians (11.4 per cent) compared with Malays (1.7 per cent)
  • Those with post-secondary education (13 per cent) compared with those with secondary or primary education (4.4 per cent)

It was also most prevalent among young adults between the ages of 18 and 39.

Men made up the highest proportion of binge drinkers among those aged between 30 and 39, while women made up the highest proportion among those aged 18 and 29.

Binge drinking was reported to occur most frequently at pubs, bars and hotel lounges (39.5 per cent), followed by at a friend’s or relative’s place or at home during parties or celebratory occasions (31.6 per cent).

The survey did not ask the respondents’ motivation to binge drink.

TODAY reported last month that anecdotally, more people are turning to booze to cope with stressors brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Studies in some countries have uncovered the problem of “pandemic drinking”.

Experts said that the trend of pandemic drinking arose due to the impact of the unprecedented crisis on people’s mental health.

These included the sense of isolation that developed from social restrictions, the stress that arose from blurred lines between work and personal life when working from home, as well as anxiety due to job insecurity.

Correspondingly, the inaugural TODAY Youth Survey, which polled 1,066 respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 in early October, found that one of the top three negative habits that respondents had picked up during the pandemic was drinking.

CHRONIC DISEASES AND OBESITY

The national health survey found that more Singapore residents were diagnosed with chronic diseases over the years, though the prevalence for diabetes seemed to have stabilised, after the data was age-adjusted. 

Raw data showed that the prevalence of diabetes registered a slight increase from 8.8 per cent in 2017 to 9.5 per cent last year, but a stable trend was seen after adjusting for age. 

The chronic diseases that showed an increase in the survey period compared with age-adjusted data in 2017 were:

  • Hypertension (31.7 per cent, up from 21.9 per cent)
  • Hyperlipidaemia (36.9 per cent, up from 33.8 per cent)
  • Diabetes (7.9 per cent, up from 7.8 per cent)

These diseases were most common among men aged between 70 and 74, the survey found. 

MOH noted that the risk of developing chronic diseases increases as the rate of obesity in the population rises.

The survey found that about one in 10 respondents were obese.

Obesity was most common among:

  • Men (11.9 per cent) compared with women (9.3 per cent)
  • Adults aged 30 to 59 (12 per cent), almost double that of those aged between 19 and 29 (6.6 per cent)
  • Malays (23.9 per cent) and Indians (17.7 per cent) compared with Chinese (7.4 per cent)
  • Those with primary education (16.3 per cent) followed by residents with secondary (12.5 per cent) and post-secondary education (8.9 per cent)

In other health matters, the survey also found an increase in the take-up rate of both influenza and pneumococcal vaccination last year.

Pneumococcal disease is a type of bacterial infection that can attack different parts of the body and cause serious infection of the lungs, brain, middle ear, membrane or lining of the brain and spinal cord.

The national adult immunisation schedule recommends all persons aged 65 years or older to be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.

In 2020, 17 per cent of respondents had an influenza vaccine in the last 12 months, up from 13.1 per cent in 2017.

Similarly, those between the ages of 65 and 74 that have taken the pneumococcal vaccine rose from 11.9 per cent in 2017 to 14.4 per cent in 2020.

MOH said that the findings highlight the need to build upon ongoing health promotion efforts.

It added that public outreach efforts will continue, such as in schools and institutes of higher learning, on the effect of smoking and alcohol consumption.

“The National Population Health Survey 2020 findings highlight the need to build upon our ongoing health promotion efforts while moving ahead to innovate new ways to empower the population to take charge of their health, especially as Singaporeans' behaviours may have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said. 

Related topics

health Smoking binge drinking drinking diabetes obesity chronic disease Covid-19

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