Young adults in Singapore more likely to binge-drink compared to other age groups: National survey
SINGAPORE — About one in five males between 18 and 29 years old were more likely to binge-drink compared to one in 10 among females in the same age group.
- Young adults in Singapore were most likely to binge-drink compared to other age groups, with males likelier to do so than females
- This was from the latest yearly national population health survey
- Smoking rates among male Singapore residents also picked up in 2021 after a period of decline
- Fewer residents engaged in enough physical activity compared to pre-Covid days
- A greater proportion of people than before were willing to seek help from professionals for mental health issues
SINGAPORE — Young adults in Singapore were more likely to binge-drink compared to other age groups last year, the latest national population health survey found.
The findings, released on Tuesday (Dec 20), showed that this was especially so among males who were between 18 and 29 years old. About one in five males in this age group were more likely to binge-drink compared to one in 10 among females in the same age group, the survey found.
The latest survey, done through face-to-face questionnaires, was carried out from July 2020 to June 2021. The survey period coincided with the gradual relaxation of Covid-19 regulations over two phases after a partial lockdown ended on June 1, 2020.
Binge-drinking was defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks for males, or four or more alcoholic drinks for females in any one drinking session during the month before respondents were polled.
Smoking rates among male residents here also picked up last year, reversing a downward trend since 2010.
At the same time, regular drinking among males went up markedly both in the long term, and over the course of the the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021.
The Ministry of Health (MOH), which conducted the survey, said in a press release on Tuesday that there is “a sustained trend of decreasing smoking rates” over the past decade, with figures dropping from 13.3 per cent in 2007 to 10.4 per cent last year among Singapore residents.
The prevalence of binge-drinking also “remained stable” at 9.6 per cent last year, compared to 10.2 per cent in 2019, it added.
TODAY reported before in The Big Read that some Singaporeans had turned to alcohol to cope with Covid-19 boredom and stress, in tandem with a global trend of “pandemic drinking” last year.
The National Population Health Survey, which is conducted yearly, tracks the health and risk factors of Singapore residents aged 18 to 74.
A total of about 8,000 adult residents here were interviewed for the survey, with the findings set against the backdrop of an ageing population and the Covid-19 pandemic.
WHAT THE SURVEY FOUND
- There has been a sustained trend of smoking rates falling over the past decade
- Smoking prevalence among Singapore residents dropped from 13.3 per cent in 2007 to 10.1 per cent in 2020, before going up slightly to 10.4 per cent last year
- Smoking rates edged up by 0.8 percentage points for men last year, compared to a drop of 0.1 percentage point for women
MOH said during a media briefing on Tuesday that its goal is to continue to bring the smoking rates here down as low as possible.
It will enhance educational efforts in schools to prevent smoking initiation from young, and continue to help smokers quit through its smoking cessation programmes.
The prevalence of regular drinking and binge-drinking rose over the past decade, but has remained stable between 2019 and 2021.
- The prevalence of regular drinking among Singapore residents rose from 1.2 per cent in 2007 to 2.2 per cent in 2020, before seeing a sharp uptick to 2.8 per cent last year
- For men, the prevalence of regular drinking dipped from 3.7 per cent in 2017 to 3.4 per cent in 2020, before seeing a sharp rise to 4.6 per cent last year
- The prevalence of binge-drinking among male and female Singapore residents has been on a steady rise since 2007, although there was a dip between 2020 and 2021
- The rate was 4.3 per cent in 2007, before climbing to 10.5 per cent in 2020 and dipping to 9.6 per cent last year
- Those between the ages of 18 and 29 had the highest prevalence of binge-drinking (15.6 per cent) compared to other age groups — 30 to 39 years old (12.8 per cent), 40 to 49 years old (9.7 per cent) and 50 to 59 years old (6.4 per cent)
MOH said it is clear from the data that there is a long-term growing trend in both binge-drinking and regular drinking among Singapore residents.
However, the prevalence of regular drinking among Singapore residents remains low in absolute terms, and is low compared to rates in western countries.
MOH said it is not surprising that binge-drinking among residents here had dropped since 2019 because bars had been closed during the pandemic.
The ministry added that will continue to watch the trends for drinking rates among residents.
Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, told TODAY that the increase in regular drinking and binge-drinking over the years “has been of particular concern”.
It is especially important to emphasise in national programmes that there is no safe level of alcohol intake given alcohol’s detrimental impact on health, he said.
Healthier SG, with its eventual plan for every citizen to be looked after by a general practitioner or private doctor, is an important step at identifying who are the people who need more check-ups and interventions on alcohol-dependent or binge-drinking behaviour, he added.
“Identifying people at risk, especially if they are within the same family unit, is an important first step before interventions — be it at the professional or community levels — can be introduced to arrest the behaviour.”
3. Physical activity
- Fewer Singapore residents had enough total physical activity last year (71.1 per cent) compared to 2019 (80.1 per cent)
- Physical activity refers to at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week
- It includes being active when commuting, physical activity during leisure time and work-related physical activity
- MOH said that the drop in physical activity could be due to reduced social and physical activities during the pandemic
4. Mental health
- The proportion of residents willing to seek help from healthcare professionals went up from 47.8 per cent in 2019 to 58.3 per cent in 2021
- The proportion of residents willing to seek help from informal networks such as their friends dropped from 74.5 per cent in 2019 to 69.1 per cent last year
- MOH said that this decline could be because social interactions were restricted during the pandemic
5. Health screening
- Fewer residents went for health screenings in 2021 compared to 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic
- This could be due to the deferment of non-urgent services including health screenings at healthcare institutions during the pandemic, MOH said
- The proportion of people going for chronic-disease screening fell from 66 per cent in 2019 to 59 per cent last year
- There were also drops in the participation rates for cervical cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer screenings
- The proportion of residents surveyed who reported having diabetes (7 per cent), high blood cholesterol (14 per cent) and hypertension (16 per cent) were comparable to 2019
- However, MOH said that these figures need to be “treated with caution”
- This is because fewer people had gone for chronic disease screening during the pandemic and there could be significant levels of undiagnosed chronic conditions