The drinking culture in Hong Kong is not as prevalent as western countries, but alcohol is readily available from supermarkets, bars, and other licensed premises. The alcohol consumption per capita in Hong Kong is 2.64 liters. This is far less than some other Asian countries including Korea (14.81 liters per capita) and Japan (7.79 liters capita). The local alcohol consumption per capita is also lower than mainland China where it is 5.56 liters.
Despite alcohol being easily available in Hong Kong the drinking culture is relatively tame. Public drunkenness is rare and greatly frowned upon. Wine is more popular in Hong Kong than it is in many other Asian countries, but the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage is beer. Male Hong Kongers are twice as likely to consume alcohol as females. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) has noticed a 4 percent increase in drinking between 2005 and 2010. This may indicate that the drinking culture in Hong Kong is gaining increasing significance. It also seems that the group that is showing the greatest increase in drinking is females.
The Population and Health Survey (PHS) (2003/ 2004) is a comprehensive study into the health and health habits of Hong Kongers. It was conducted using questionnaires on a sample of the population that numbered 7,084 people. The study showed that 61.6% of the populations were non-drinkers (4.7% classified themselves as ex-drinkers). Only 9.5% of this group classified themselves as regular drinkers (at least once a week). This report also indicated that the favorite tipple of Hong Kongers is beer (66.5%) followed by wine (19.6%).
The data from the PHS study showed that out of those who drank regularly 14.4% admitted to binge drinking within the last month. This is worrying because this pattern of consuming alcohol is considered to be the most harmful. The dangers of binge drinking include:
* It is the pattern of drinking that is most likely to lead to alcoholism.
* The fact that these individuals are drinking are large volume of alcohol in a small period of time puts them at risk of alcohol poisoning. People can and do die from this behavior.
* Binge drinking can damage almost every organ in the body. It is not necessary for people to drink for many years before they develop the early stages of alcoholic liver disease.
* Incidents of domestic violence often involve alcohol. When people drink they have less impulse control and have a reduced ability to make good decisions.
* Binge drinking can not only make people more violent, but it also increases their risk of being a victim of violence.
* Those who engage in this pattern of drinking may experience blackouts. This means that there will be periods of time that they just can’t remember.
* It can lead to lost productivity at work and ineffectiveness to take care of responsibilities due to hangovers.
* When people are inebriated they are at risk of behaving in ways they later regret.
The BRFSS data showed that 16.9% of respondents admitted drinking above the recommended levels for safe consumption. 5.8% of these had reached a point that could be described as drunkenness during the last month. This type of alcohol abuse is extremely risky behavior because:
* Those who continue to abuse alcohol may develop a physical and psychological dependence on the substance – they have become alcoholic.
* Alcohol abuse is closely associated with sexual abuse and domestic abuse.
* These people will be at more risk of falling into criminal activity.
* It may have negative financial consequences for their dependents. Money that could have been put to better uses may be used for alcohol.
* The individual may fail to meet their social, family, and work commitments.
* Alcohol abuse can be a real problem in some communities.
* It can lead to the symptoms of depression.
There is no legal age restriction on people who consume alcohol in Hong Kong. However it is illegal for any licensed premises to sell alcohol to anyone who is underage. Those individuals who indulge in alcohol at a young age can be in real danger because:
* There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that the younger people are when they start drinking the more likely they are to develop alcohol problems later.
* Drinking alcohol during adolescents can interfere with normal development – particularly mental development.
* It can mean that young people perform badly at school. This may have grave implications for their future and limit their opportunities in life.
* Those who try alcohol at a young age are at more risk of experimenting with harder drugs.
* There is a strong link between underage drinking and teenage suicide. This is because drinking inhibitions and people lose their ability to make logical choices.
* Teenage vandalism and other deviant behaviors are often associated with alcohol use.
* Drinking at a young age will increase sexuality promiscuity – possibly leading to unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
In order to avoid developing alcohol problems it is recommended that people stick to safe levels of consumption which are:
* 2 drinks per day for adult men under the age of 65 years of age.
* 1 drink per day for adult women.
* 1 drink per day for anyone aged over 65 years of age.
* Those who struggle to control their alcohol intake would be wise to quit completely.
In the above recommendations a drink is considered to be a; standard beer, glass of wine, or shot of bar measured spirits.
If people develop alcohol problems in Hong Kong they have a number of options including:
* Tuen Mun Alcohol Treatment Service offers alcohol abusers help and advice for dealing with this problem. They offer both in-house and community services including psychiatric assessment, detoxification, and counseling.
* Alcoholics Anonymous Hong Kong is a fellowship made up of people who are collectively trying to overcome their drinking problems. This program uses the 12 Steps to not only help the individual get sober but also to build a better life for themselves.
* It is becoming common for people to leave Hong Kong in search of other treatment options. DARA Rehab is based in Thailand and it has become the leading destination in Asia for people looking for addiction treatment.
* Saint John’s Counseling Service offers a program for substance abusers. They are located on Queen’s Road in Central Hong Kong.