Half of Taiwanese have misconceptions about hangovers: survey

01/20/2021 03:55 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only
CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) Although the vast majority of Taiwanese adults know what hangovers are, at least 50 percent hold misconceptions about what causes them and how they work, according to a new poll by the Taiwan Beverage Alcohol Forum (TBAF).

The TBAF presented the survey's results at a press conference with Transportation and Communications Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) on Wednesday, hoping to raise alcohol awareness ahead of next month's Lunar New Year holiday.

The survey found that while 89.5 percent of respondents knew what hangovers were, more than 50 percent held at least one of several misconceptions about them.

Common misconceptions included the belief that people whose faces turn red while drinking metabolize alcohol more quickly (45.1 percent), that hangovers are related to one's ability to "hold one's liquor" (63.8 percent), and that people who exercise frequently are less likely to get hangovers (62.9 percent).

Chien Cheng-hung (錢政弘), a gastroenterologist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Keelung, debunked the first of these beliefs, explaining that a red face caused by drinking is actually a sign of the body's inability to completely digest alcohol.

When alcohol enters the liver, he explained, it is metabolized into a toxic compound called acetaldehyde before being converted to a safer form known as acetate.

The "red face" phenomenon, known as alcohol flush, occurs when people have trouble converting acetaldehyde quickly enough, he said.

Transportation and Communications Minister Lin Chia-lung (left) and TBAF Chairman Dominic Ryan. CNA photo Jan. 20, 2021
Transportation and Communications Minister Lin Chia-lung (left) and TBAF Chairman Dominic Ryan. CNA photo Jan. 20, 2021

This condition is especially common in Taiwan, where around 50 percent of people lack an enzyme called ALDH2, which helps break down acetaldehyde, he said.

Aside from a red face, alcohol flush can also cause a rapid heart beat and nausea, as well as a higher risk of mouth and throat cancers, he said.

As for hangovers, Chien said they have less to do with so-called alcohol tolerance or physical fitness, and are instead related to factors including the type of liquor consumed, liver function, and whether or not a person ate anything while drinking.

Lin, meanwhile, noted that although the number of drunk driving arrests in Taiwan fell by 38.6 percent from 2015 to 2020, from 6,658 arrests to 4,091, the number of such incidents was still too high.

In addition, the fact that around 20 percent of drunk driving arrests occur between 4 a.m. and 12 p.m. shows that there are still misconceptions about the risks of driving while hungover, Lin said.

The TBAF survey was conducted by the Taipei-based POLLS Market Research Consultancy and was based on 1,136 valid responses.

(By Yu Hsiao-han and Matthew Mazzetta)

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