Taiwan people spend big on health food, herbs: survey


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan people are big spenders on health food, with each adult spending an average NT$1,031 (US$33.47) per month on such foodstuff, according to the results of a survey published yesterday.

Around 85 percent of the people in Taiwan would spend that amount of money to buy organic, functional food or Chinese herbs to gain greater health or medical benefits, in addition to purchasing basic nutritional food, the survey conducted by the Taiwan Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management Association has found.

The amount spent on health food is well above the average of NT$275 spent per month by each individual on buying medicine, an indication that Taiwanese people prefer to rely on consuming health food and supplements instead of on medicine to boost their health, association officials said.

However, two-thirds of the respondents said they would go to see a doctor and get prescribed medicine at clinics or hospitals covered in the National Health Insurance program whenever they suffer from just a little discomfort.

The reasons cited for such behavior included belief in doctors’ and hospitals’ professionalism, safety, and effectiveness. People also prefer seeing a doctor because the fees are covered by the insurance program.

The number of visits made by the public to the appointed hospitals under the health insurance program has steadily risen in recent years, with the average insured person going to the hospital 15 times last year.

Around NT$508 billion has been allocated for the program’s expenses in 2011.

The association carried out the random telephone survey from Sept. 13-24, questioning 1,074 men and women aged between 20-65 across Taiwan about their medical practices. It had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.