The Chinese have long been recognized as a group that uses alcohol in moderation and that experiences very few drinking problems, a fact demonstrated by research extending back to the 1930's. For example, during a seventeen-year period, no more than ten cases of alcoholism were reported among the Chinese population of Taiwan. Research since that time corroborates low rates of alcoholism among Chinese. For example, an epidemiological survey in a Taiwanese town of about 20,000 residents found only two alcoholics.
Confucian and Taoist philosophies emphasize the need for moderation in drinking. Individuals who behave inappropriately while intoxicated are ridiculed and, if they persist, are ostracized. Their lack of moderation is considered to be not only a personal failure but also a deficiency of the entire family.
Chinese-American alcohol abuse and drinking behaviors are heavily influenced by cultural traditions originating in China. Recent studies of Chinese, both in the United States and in other countries, indicate that most drink in moderation, many choose not to drink at all, and very few experience any drinking problems.
Condemnation of drunkenness has been systematically documented in surveys of Chinese-Americans, whose death rates from chronic liver disease and alcoholic cirrhosis is only about one-fourth that of white Americans. Although Chinese and Indians in Singapore drink the same quantities of alcohol and with the same frequency, the alcoholism rate for Chinese is only about 5% that of the Indians.
However, when traditional alcohol beliefs and practices decrease, Chinese tend to experience a higher incidence of drinking problems and abuse. This suggests that it is cultural differences associated with specific religious or cultural beliefs that largely influence drinking patterns and problems associated with the misuse of alcohol.
No discussion of Chinese-American alcohol abuse would be complete without addressing the matter of what is commonly called the "oriental flushing reflex." Large proportions of various Asian populations experience a reddening of the skin, more rapid breathing, a more rapid heart rate, and a variety of unpleasant physiological reactions from the consumption of even small quantities of alcohol, whereas only a small proportion of Caucasians do.
It has been suggested that this unpleasant sensitivity to alcohol among Asian groups might explain their low rates of alcoholism. However, no significant relationship has been found between flushing and drinking patterns or drinking outcomes. Because the flushing phenomenon appears to be completely physiological in origin, it cannot explain differences in alcohol patterns over time or between generations.
It is an inescapable fact that what a group believes about alcohol and drinking and how it responds to violations of its beliefs has a powerful influence on the incidence of alcoholism within the group. No matter what ethnicity or background, St Jude's can help anyone who is trying to overcome heavy alcohol use. There is hope to live a life filled with purpose rather than living in despair and the thought that you may be addicted to alcohol for life. People overcome alcohol abuse patterns everyday and you can too.
For more information on the St. Jude Program, call today.