Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Why is high-risk drinking more prevalent among men than women? evidence from South Korea

Woojin Chung12, Seungji Lim3 and Sunmi Lee4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Policy and Management, Graduate School of Public Health, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

2 Institute of Health Services Research, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

3 Department of Public Health, Yonsei University Graduate School, Seoul, South Korea

4 Health Insurance Policy Research Institute, National Health Insurance Corporation, Seoul, South Korea

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-101

Published: 6 February 2012



It is important to identify and quantify the factors that affect gender differences in high-risk drinking (HRD), from both an academic and a policy perspective. However, little is currently known about them. This study examines these factors and estimates the percentage contribution each makes to gender differences in HRD.


This study analyzed information on 23,587 adults obtained from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Surveys of 1998, 2001, and 2005. It found that the prevalence of HRD was about 5 times higher among men (0.37) than women (0.08). Using a decomposition approach extended from the Oaxaca-Blinder method, we decomposed the gender difference in HRD to an "overall composition effect" (contributions due to gender differences in the distribution of observed socio-economic characteristics), and an "overall HRD-tendency effect" (contributions due to gender differences in tendencies in HRD for individuals who share socio-economic characteristics).


The HRD-tendency effect accounted for 96% of the gender difference in HRD in South Korea, whereas gender differences in observed socio-economic characteristics explained just 4% of the difference. Notably, the gender-specific HRD-tendency effect accounts for 90% of the gender difference in HRD.


We came to a finding that gender-specific HRD tendency is the greatest contributor to gender differences in HRD. Therefore, to effective reduce HRD, it will be necessary to understand gender differences in socioeconomic characteristics between men and women but also take notice of such differences in sociocultural settings as they experience. And it will be also required to prepare any gender-differentiated intervention strategy for men and women.