Pinoys heaviest beer drinkers in SE Asia–DOH study

Filipinos are the heaviest drinkers of alcoholic beverages in Southeast Asia, according to study by the Department of Health (DOH) released Thursday.

The study’s findings showed that 11% of the population aged 15 to 74 regularly drink alcoholic beverages at an average rate of about four or more days in a week. The study also said that 24% of Filipinos aged 15 to 19 years old are regular teen drinkers.

The report also revealed that on a per capita basis, beer ranks third among the top three items that average Filipinos most commonly purchase, next only to infant milk and cellular phone loads.

The health report cited a 2008 research by Synovate, a global market research company, saying that alcohol consumption in the Philippines is rising particularly among affluent Filipinos who consumed 37% more alcohol than in other countries like Thailand (34%), Singapore (32%), Malaysia (28%) and Indonesia (8%).The research also found that locally-brewed beer was the top choice of 30% of wealthy Filipinos among alcoholic beverages.

Following the announcement of its study’s findings, the DOH issued an advisory against drinking and relaunched its healthy lifestyle campaign called “HL to the Max”, which recommends seven “must-do activities” for Filipinos to achieve better health. These include staying away from illegal drugs, having a low-fat, low-salt, and high-fiber diet, preventing hypertension, engaging in physical activities, managing stress, quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol.

“Not many people realize that too much alcohol can increase their risk for cancer. When people smoke and drink heavily, their chances of developing head and neck cancer skyrocket,” officials from the health department warned.

According to health experts, alcohol slows down reactions, lowers a person’s inhibitions, and makes a person aggressive or hostile. In higher doses, it causes blackouts, impairs concentration, judgment and emotional reactions.

“People may get drunk more quickly if they are young or not yet mature; are small and light; and are not used to drinking alcohol. They get drunk because they drink strong alcohol, drink fast, drink without eating solid food, and drink and use drugs,” the DOH said.

Health officials also warned that drinking damages the body’s liver cells leading to cirrhosis, a condition where the liver is scarred or destroyed.

They also said that alcohol abuse damages the skin, making it appear reddish due to inflamed surface blood vessels. It also weakens the heart and muscular tissue leading to a condition called cardiomyopathy, a disease where the heart becomes inflamed and hinders proper functioning. Chronic alcohol abuse also leads to bleeding disorders, damaging the stomach lining and causing stomach problems like ulcer.

The “HL to the Max” campaign was launched by the DOH on February 16 this year. The DOH campaign involves “Hataw’ exercises, lectures and symposiums, press campaigns, caravans and parades, quiz bees and poster making contests, as well as conducting screening, laboratory examinations, and intervention campaigns.

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