Alcohol consumption among individuals who experience a flushing response (reddening of the face, nausea, dizziness, headache, anxiety, and increased heartbeat) can result in serious health problems. However, studies on reasons for drinking among flushers, especially in the college context, are limited. Thus, this study investigated the association between primary reason for drinking and alcohol use among a nationally representative sample of current, former, and never flushing college students. The aim was to measure whether college students with current or former experience of facial flushing have different primary reasons for drinking compared to students with no experience of facial flushing. We surveyed and analyzed the data of 4590 students in a nationally representative sample of 82 colleges in South Korea. Multiple regression analysis was used to identify the association between primary reason for drinking and alcohol intake. Alcohol intake was measured using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). Among 1537 current (33.5%), 152 former (3.3%), and 2901 (63.2%) never flushers, mean AUDIT scores were 7.715 ± 5.434, 11.039 ± 6.405, and 10.465 ± 5.779, respectively. Current flushers had significantly higher AUDIT scores when drinking for pleasure (β = 2.696, p < 0.0001) or stress/depression (β = 2.578, p < 0.0001). Primary reasons for drinking were not associated with alcohol intake for former flushers. Never flushers had significantly higher AUDIT scores when drinking for pleasure (β = 2.696, p < 0.0001), stress/depression (β = 2.578, p < 0.0001), or boredom (β = 0.740, p = 0.029) than peer pressure. Our results suggest that former and never flushers consume higher amounts of alcohol on average than never flushers. For current flushers, drinking for pleasure or stress/depression may increase alcohol intake, while for never flushers, drinking for pleasure, stress/depression, as well as boredom may have the same effect.
Keywords: ALDH2; alcohol flush reaction; aldehyde dehydrogenase 2; college drinking; flushing.