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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU: High-Risk Drinking Common in South Africa

Adults in South Africa consume more alcohol than adults in most other countries. Previous research has shown this comes with high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome and is a driver of the country’s leading causes of death: sexually transmitted infections and interpersonal violence. In response, the South African government is now considering the Liquor Products Amendment, which includes provisions meant to reduce how much South Africans drink. 

Now, the first study to look at contextual factors surrounding heavy drinking in South Africa, led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers, finds high-risk drinking is common in the country, with larger container size emerging as the factor most associated with heavy drinking.

The study, published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, found that the heaviest drinkers accounted for 94 percent of all alcohol consumed, and that 93 percent of all alcohol was consumed on heavy-drinking occasions. 

“Given the atypically high prevalence of heavy drinking among South African drinkers, upstream approaches like the policies outlined in the Liquor Product Amendment bill have the potential to prevent a wide array of harms by focusing on a common root cause: alcohol,” says lead study author Ms. Pamela Trangenstein, a postdoctoral associate in the department of health law, policy & management at BUSPH.

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