Smoking declines, but boozing up

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Smoking declines, but boozing up

Fewer South Koreans are smoking, but more are drinking hard, feeling fat and getting depressed, a government poll said.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the results of its 2013 Community Health Research poll on Tuesday. According to the poll, the percentage of smokers among the respondents nationwide decreased slightly from 24.5 percent to 24.2 percent over the past year. Smoking by men fell from 46.4 percent to 45.8 percent in the same period.

But the rate of high-risk drinking has increased. High-risk drinking for men is defined as drinking more than seven drinks of alcohol such as soju two times a week or more during the past year. For women, it’s defined as drinking more than five drinks twice a week. Nationwide, the rate of high-risk drinking increased from 16 percent in 2012 to 18.6 percent in 2013.

The rate of high-risk drinking varied nationwide. It was less than the national average in Daegu (14.9 percent), Ulsan (15.6 percent) and Gwangju (16.8 percent), and more in Gyungnam (19.7 percent), Jeju (19.9 percent) and Gangwon (21.5 percent). The poll surveyed health habits of 220,000 South Koreans older than 18 nationwide. It included 258 questions about smoking, drinking, exercise, safety, food, obesity, mental health and health checkups. The survey started six years ago and is conducted annually in 253 cities. An exercise fad seems to have faded over the past few years, and waistlines expanded.

According to the poll, the percentage of people who walk more than 30 minutes five days a week or more decreased from 50.6 percent in 2008 to 38.2 percent in 2013. The obesity recognition rate, the number of people who think they are obese, also steadily increased from 29.8 percent to 38.7 percent from 2008 to 2013. Unsurprisingly, the number of people who attempted to lose weight rose from 38.9 percent to 58.4 in the same period.

On the topic of mental health, people who experienced depression for at least two weeks in a row in the previous year increased from 4.7 percent in 2012 to 5.1 percent in 2013. The figures were highest in Daejeon (7 percent), Seoul (7.1 percent) and Incheon (7.7 percent).

When asked about their levels of stress, 27 percent of the respondents selected the first or second level out of four levels. “The results of the survey will be used to solve local health problems,” said Jeong Eun-kyeong, the director of the Disease Prevention Center.

BY PARK HYUN-YOUNG, JO SOO-MIN [enational@joongang.co.kr]





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