Barbados appears to be becoming a nation of drinkers and drunks, with a worrying number of young adults engaging in excessive indulgence of alcohol, according to the latest health survey.
The Barbados Health of the Nation Survey has found a rise in binge drinking, with about one in seven people over the age of 25 consuming large amounts at least once, many of them unable to recall who they are.
Delivering the Core Findings 2015 Policy Brief from the survey at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Workplace Wellness Programme, Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John said the rise in this practice worried health officials, and that binge drinking was not just linked to the Crop Over season, but was becoming a regular practice.
Dr St John said 15 per cent of adults over age 25 reported that they had engaged in heavy episodic drinking, which is, the consumption of at least four to five alcohol drinks on one occasion, during the past thirty days.
“A lot of the Crop Over songs were about drinking to have fun, so it is really deep in our culture. And the horror stories that my staff tells me about what happens at mass crowd events, there are mainly incidents related to drunkenness.
“You have people coming in and they don’t know who they are, they don’t know what they are doing and they are sick and some of that then leads into the violence that has been creeping into our events,” she said.
The Chief Medical Officer also indicated that while Barbados is an award winning alcohol-producing nation, it should be noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that there are harmful limits.
“So what we are encouraging is that you do not take harmful amount, an excessive amount, and we are encouraging you not to drink and drive,” she said.
The study was undertaken by the Chronic Disease Research Centre and Faculty of Medical Sciences, Cave Hill and aimed to survey a representative sample of adults 25 years or over, who are resident in Barbados.
Data collection occurred between 2011 and 2013 among 1,234 participants of which 764 were women and 470 were men. There was an estimated response rate of 55 per cent. All results are adjusted to be representative of the age and sex structure of Barbados, based on the 2010 census.
In addition to drinking, the study also revealed troubling health issues, including the rate of diabetes and obesity, particularly among women.
It found that one in five women and six per cent of men have a Body Mass Index of 35, and that over six in ten women and one in five men have abdominal obesity.
The health official also reported that overall almost one in five adults has diabetes, with nearly half of the population over the age of 65 suffering from high blood sugar. In addition, one in every three women is on treatment for hypertension, and another 11 per cent are hypertensive but untreated. One in every five men is on treatment for hypertension.
The study also showed that although tobacco smoking rates are low, excess alcohol intake in men, levels of physical inactivity, poor intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a high rate of obesity are affecting the vast majority of the adult population.
“These in turn feed into high rates of diabetes, hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels and contribute to the high risk of cardiovascular disease,” the study found.
Dr St John said it was important that Government, civil society and the private sector come together to help reduce the health risks. She also called for measures to more readily identify people with diabetes and hypertension and to provide timely care for the control of blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose. (AH)