The Korea Public Health Association (KPHA) recently conducted a survey targeting 2,000 university students to identify the number of heavy drinkers among them and combat excessive drinking.
Originally developed by the World Health Organization to determine if a person’s alcohol consumption is at a harmful level, the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) has been modified for Koreans. According to the survey, 28.3 percent of female students who took the test were classified as having alcohol use disorder, which was triple the percentage of male students under the same classification.
The Ewha Voice conducted the AUDIT-K, the survey designed for Koreans, surveying 333 Ewha students to outline the alcohol consumption rate of female students at Ewha. Of the surveyed students, 18.3 percent was classified as having alcohol use disorder. Meanwhile, 58.3 percent was considered having favorable drinking habits and 23.4 percent were considered as needing to improve their drinking habits. Compared to the survey results by the KHPA, Ewha’s drinking culture is at a rather stable boundary.
“Most Ewha students do not seem to have serious drinking problems, but there are times when a student visits the University Health Service Center with symptoms of heavy drinking,” said Park Kyung-hee, a doctor at the University Health Service Center. “Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, reflux esophagitis and gastritis.”
Alcohol use disorder is a state when one has developed excessive tolerance or dependence on alcohol. One may have trouble controlling the frequency and quantity of consuming alcohol. Quitting alcohol consumption is inevitable at this level. Yet 18.3 percent of Ewha students were shown to be on the verge of this state.
“Students at the level of alcohol use disorder must quit, not lessen drinking,” said Yu Je-young, the team manager of the Preventive Education team in the KPHA. “Women are especially more vulnerable to alcohol which is why the grading standard for male and female is different. Females have a higher percentage of body fat and less body water, which raises alcohol concentration.”
In order to improve the drinking culture among university students in Korea, the KPHA has planned a project to moderate the consumption of alcohol among university students, and is promoting financial support to university healthy drinking clubs. In response to students’ active participation, the KPHA will expand its support and open opportunities for new healthy drinking clubs this year. Other than the financial support, the KPHA is also designing teaching materials to prevent problems due to alcohol in universities.
“Our team is working on making video clips and textbooks to provide education on healthy drinking for university students in Korea,” Yu said. “We are also developing posters, brochures and leaflets about healthy drinking for the healthy drinking clubs to use.”
Happy Ewha Without Alcohol (HEWA) is one of the first clubs supported by the KPHA starting in 2007. It is in charge of improving drinking culture at Ewha. HEWA is supporting healthy drinking through healthy drinking campaigns, alcohol common sense quizzes and alcohol goggle experiences.
This semester, they are publicizing the moderation cup, which is a cup that is made of thicker glass that intentionally lessens the amount of alcohol poured into it.
“We can say that Ewha’s drinking culture is comparatively sound as we have not experienced many accidents caused by alcohol on campus,” said Ji Seung-hye (Health Education & Management, 3), the leader of HEWA. “Yet, we think Ewha students should still be aware of possible hazards in case they develop excessive drinking habits.”
Although the issue of alcohol abuse is not as severe among students in Ewha, the doctor from the University Health Service Center warns students about the side effects of drinking in health and social aspects.
“Female students must be more careful when drinking because male and female organs are different in size and the pace of digesting alcohol,” Park said. “Heavy drinking may cause infection in oral cavity, throat, liver and stomach.”