Cape Town has been dubbed the “drinking capital” of the country, with a study by the Department of Health finding that more than 50 percent of its people consume alcohol – and that a third of this group abuse it.
“Alcohol consumption generally leads to violence, which can be stressful, as well as people turning to alcohol when they are stressed,” said Joanne Corrigall, senior public specialist with the department.
“Access to alcohol is so easy and readily available.”
A beer cost the same as a cool drink, Corrigall said.
The study, carried out earlier this year, also found that alcohol abuse among schoolchildren was a much bigger problem than drugs.
About 66 percent of pupils in the Western Cape in Grades 8 to 10 drank alcohol. Of them, a quarter admitted to binge drinking two weeks before the study took place.
“It was fascinating to note that only 2 percent of the pupils who participated admitted to using tik,” Corrigall said.
Officials said violence, mental health problems and HIV/Aids were all part of a cycle driving more than half of Cape Town’s population to drink.
“There are a few major factors that contribute to people drinking,” Corrigall said. “Everywhere you go, alcohol is advertised without pointing out the real dangers of irresponsible consumption.”
Corrigall said there were about 300 alcohol-related deaths a month in South Africa.
Beyond the warnings about drinking and driving and drinking during pregnancy, people were not aware how serious the problem was. “If there was more advertising around it, maybe people would drink more responsibly.”
Corrigall, who is also the producer and director of Booza TV, a series about the effects of drinking, said the problem was prevalent not only among adults, but also among high school children, as the study had shown.
The department met representatives of non-governmental organisations on Tuesday to discuss ways of curbing alcohol abuse and making people aware of its risks.
South Africa is ranked third on the list of countries with the highest rates of alcohol consumption.
Corrigall said the department was looking for ways of intervening to turn the tide.
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