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Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2018 Dec 5;13(1):43. doi: 10.1186/s13011-018-0182-1.

Heavy drinking and contextual risk factors among adults in South Africa: findings from the International Alcohol Control study.

Author information

Alcohol Research Group, 6001 Shellmound St., Suite 450, Emeryville, CA, 94608, USA.
Department of Health Law, Policy and Management, Boston University School of Public Health, 715 Albany St, Boston, MA, 02118, USA.
Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, 1 Soutpansberg Rd, Prinshof 349-Jr, Pretoria, 0084, South Africa.
School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, 1 Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa.
School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Falmouth Rd, Observatory, Cape Town, 7925, South Africa.
Biostatistics Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Francie Van Zijl Dr, Parow Valley, Cape Town, 7501, South Africa.
Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Box 19070, Tygerberg, PO, 7505, South Africa.
Department of Psychiatry, Francie van Zijl Drive, Tygerberg, Cape Town, 7505, South Africa.



There is limited information about the potential individual-level and contextual drivers of heavy drinking in South Africa. This study aimed to identify risk factors for heavy drinking in Tshwane, South Africa.


A household survey using a multi-stage stratified cluster random sampling design. Complete consumption and income data were available on 713 adults. Heavy drinking was defined as consuming ≥120 ml (96 g) of absolute alcohol (AA) for men and ≥ 90 ml (72 g) AA for women at any location at least monthly.


53% of the sample were heavy drinkers. Bivariate analyses revealed that heavy drinking differed by marital status, primary drinking location, and container size. Using simple logistic regression, only cider consumption was found to lower the odds of heavy drinking. Persons who primarily drank in someone else's home, nightclubs, and sports clubs had increased odds of heavy drinking. Using multiple logistic regression and adjusting for marital status and primary container size, single persons were found to have substantially higher odds of heavy drinking. Persons who drank their primary beverage from above average-sized containers at their primary location had 7.9 times the odds of heavy drinking as compared to persons who drank from average-sized containers. Some significant associations between heavy drinking and age, race, and income were found for certain beverages.


Rates of heavy drinking were higher than expected giving impetus to various alcohol policy reforms under consideration in South Africa. Better labeling of the alcohol content of different containers is needed together with limiting production, marketing and serving of alcohol in large containers.


Alcohol policy; Container size; Heavy drinking; South Africa

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