SINGAPORE: Young adults, aged 18 to 34, are twice as likely to binge drink compared to other age groups, according to an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) study conducted last year.
The study sampled more than 6,600 people, 18 years and above.
It revealed that the prevalence of alcohol—use disorders, including alcohol abuse and dependence, was 5.3 per cent in those aged 18 to 34 years old, compared to 3.6 per cent in the general population.
National health statistics from 2010 showed that the number of binge drinkers in Singapore doubled —— from 5 percent of the population in 1992, to 10 percent in 2004.
Using the data, the Institute of Mental Health conducted a separate survey last year to study the relation between alcohol use and mental health.
The Health Ministry defines binge drinking as having four or more alcoholic drinks on a single occasion for women, and five or more alcoholic drinks for men.
The survey also showed that a sizeable proportion of young Singaporeans who drink were also binge drinkers.
Meanwhile, researchers said the national health survey data showed that the increase was larger among women.
Dr Melvin Wu, IMH’s resident physician, said: "For the age group of about 18 years old, this is the time when their brain is not fully developed yet. Their decision making skills are not properly in place, so they may take risks and engage in things like (binge) drinking. Among their peers, it may make them look older and more mature.
"In the slightly older age group, when they start to work, they may have more money on hand to go pubbing or clubbing, and it may be the norm for them to socialise in such environments."
However, doctors warned of the consequences of binge drinking.
"It has been associated with psychiatric illnesses. We have quite a strong association with major depressive disorder," said IMH’s deputy director of Research Division, Asst Professor Mythily Subramaniam.
She added: "What we found that in people who had major depressive disorder, a quarter of them in the sample had binge drinking in the past one year.
"Violence is commonly associated with binge drinking. High risk sexual behaviour is also associated with binge drinking. They (binge drinkers) also get involved in accidents and drink driving."
Researchers said many may not be aware of their binge drinking, but there are steps to avoid it.
Dr Wu said: "If you are drinking to the extent where, maybe for example, the next day your friends tell you ’why did you do this last night?", then I think it’s time to sit up and count the number of drinks you are having.
"If you are really drinking more than five drinks a night, there are certain things you can do to help yourself drink less. For example, get a friend to count the number of drinks and pour the drinks for you.
"And don’t engage in games that involve drinking. If you want to drink, you should have something to eat before you drink and try to avoid food that makes you thirsty."
Binge drinkers can seek help through the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) website, or by calling the All Addictions Helpline at 6—RECOVER (67326837).
They will be able to speak to trained para—counsellors from NAMS to seek advice and information on a confidential basis.
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