Prevalence trends of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease among young men in Korea: A Korean military population-based cross-sectional study

Clin Mol Hepatol. 2022 Apr;28(2):196-206. doi: 10.3350/cmh.2021.0371. Epub 2022 Jan 13.


Background/aims: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become a major concern in Korea since its emergence as a dominant cause of chronic liver disease. However, no study has explored its prevalence in adults under 30 years of age. Therefore, we performed a cross-sectional study to investigate the prevalence of NAFLD in Korean men in their early 20s.

Methods: We collected data of 596,359 Korean soldiers who participated in a health examination between January 2015 and July 2021. A total of 571,872 individuals were analyzed after excluding those with missing data and hepatitis B antigen positivity. Hepatic steatosis was determined using the hepatic steatosis index (HSI). Participants with HSI >36 were considered to have NAFLD.

Results: All participants were men, and the mean age was 20.9±1.3 years. Of the 571,872 participants screened, 77,020 (13.47%) were classified as having NAFLD. The prevalence of NAFLD consistently increased from 2015 to 2021 (10.66% vs. 16.44%, P<0.001). Increases from 2015 to 2021 were also noted in the prevalence of hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycemia, and hypertension (P<0.001 for all). The mean body mass index also increased from 23.3±3.0 kg/m2 to 23.9±3.1 kg/m2 between 2015 and 2021 (P<0.001).

Conclusion: The prevalence of NAFLD and of other metabolic dysfunctions in Korean men in their early 20s increased from 2015 to 2021.

Keywords: Korea; Metabolic syndrome; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Prevalence; Young adult.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / diagnosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Young Adult