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Health Risks Vary According to Region: Study

Posted March. 28, 2009 08:34,   


The proportion of smokers greatly varies nearly twofold depending on region, that of heavy drinkers more than threefold, and that of obese people 2.5 times, a Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry report said yesterday.

The ministry’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on community health assessment for 2008. The first nationwide health report in the country’s history surveyed from September to November last year 220,000 adults - 700 to 817 adults in each of 251 provincial areas.

The average Korean male smoked five packs of cigarettes over his lifetime. Hwacheon County in Gangwon Province had the largest number of male smokers with 60.8 percent, more than double the number in Goheung, South Jeolla Province (30 percent). Of the 251 areas, 114 had more than half of their male population smoke.

A public health official in Hwacheon said, “The large numbers of both the elderly and tobacco farmers appeared to be a factor for the high smoking rate.”

Danyang County in North Chungcheong Province had the largest number of “high-risk drinkers,” or those who consume more than seven shots of soju at one sitting once a week or more, with 78.6 percent. The figure was three times higher than that of Sancheong, South Gyeongsang Province (22.6 percent). More than half of the male population in 70 provinces was high-risk drinkers.

A public health official in Danyang said, “People here rarely get stressed or attempt suicide,” adding, “Their optimistic attitude seems to lead to heavy drinking.”

According to the body mass index based on a person’s weight and height, those with a BMI of more than 25 are considered obese. The obesity rate in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, was the highest at 34.6 percent. Seoul’s Dobong district had the lowest rate of 14.3 percent, showing a gap of 2.5 times between the two areas.

Gangwon Province had the most obese people nationwide, with five areas included in the top five: Jeongseon with 32 percent; Hwacheon 29.9 percent; Yeongwol 29.3 percent; and Hongcheon 29.2 percent.

These five areas ranked in the bottom for the walking practice rate, referring to the share of people who walk more than 30 minutes more than five days a week. This means lack of exercise was a major factor.

A public health official in Cheorwon said, “Farmers here engage in large-scale farming, causing a large number of the elderly to idle away.”

The rate of stress in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, was the highest with 43.3 percent of the people, followed by Seoul’s Dongdaemun district with 42.4 percent. Wando, South Jeolla Province, had the lowest with 9.7 percent and Gunwi, North Gyeongsang Province, had the second lowest with 11.6 percent.

Incheon’s Jung district had the highest blood pressure at 180.8 for every 1,000 persons. Ulleung Island in North Gyeongsang Province had the lowest at 81.7.

Osan, Gyeonggi Province, had the largest number of diabetics at 84.7 for every 1,000 persons and Seogwipo on Jeju Island had the lowest at 24.6.

Kim Yeoung-taek, in charge of chronic disease surveys at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “The Gangwon and Gyeongsang provinces have higher rates of smoking and drinking than the Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces, and obesity is higher in Seoul, Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces.”

“The survey has made a thorough assessment by including smaller provinces. Thorough analysis of the causes is equally needed, however.”