Are South Africans Boozing Too Much?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published its annual global status report on alcohol and health for 2018, and it appears we’re in deep water. South Africa ranked sixth among a host of other countries when it came to alcohol consumption.

We’ve seen the posts and the memes that advocate alcohol use – from #WineWednesday to Phuza Thursday. Does your day revolve around cracking open an ice cold Zamalek after work? Are you looking forward to that glass of wine a little too much?

South Africans consume an average of 30 litres of alcohol in a single year. That’s a lot of booze.

Alcohol affects more than your body

Alcohol use has detrimental effects on your wellbeing. 18% of suicides, 27% of traffic injuries and 18% of interpersonal violence cases in the world can be attributed to excessive alcohol consumption according to the annual global status report on alcohol and health for 2018.

In addition to these statistics, excessive alcohol consumption also contributes to diseases like liver cirrhosis, mouth cancer, pancreatitis, tuberculosis, colorectal cancer, breast cancer and hypertensive heart disease.

Heavy drinking may also lead to the excessive use of prescription medication like opioids, or even other forms of illegal substances.


How does alcohol impact your life?

Apart from your physical wellbeing, excessive drinking drastically affects families and society as a whole. This is why alcoholic beverages are referred to and are subject to “sin tax” – to effectively make up for the cost for the damage to society. But does it really help?

Alcohol not only affects your personal life, but also your work life. You may become more violent at home, or be the victim of abuse. Relationships will suffer, and you will feel alone with no support structure. This is proven to be a major factor in terms of managing your physical and mental health.  At work, you may find yourself to not be productive due to a hangover, or sleep deprivation from excessive alcohol and substance abuse. You may also call in sick more often which could lead to losing your job. If you have a problem, share with a friend or trusted family member and get help. Employers provide EAP programmes that also assist.


Identifying when you have a problem

We live in a stressful, “always on” environment. We’re juggling our careers with personal lives, and we may feel like we always need to perform optimally. You may not know how to deal with the additional stress you are experiencing, which is typically when you might turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Knowing your triggers and researching behaviours might help you identify that you may have a problem before you realise it. There’s always time to correct this.

Ways to beat stress, from Craig Comrie, CEO of Profmed:

  • Regular exercise
  • Enough, restful sleep every night
  • Productive hobbies – there has been an uptake in crafting hobbies to assist people with ‘switching off’
  • A stable support structure – friends and family can help support you when you’re in need of help


The impact of excessive drinking on medical schemes

“We have seen an increase in anxiety and depression which correlates closely to excessive abuse of alcohol and other substances,” says Craig Comrie, CE and Principal Officer at Profmed.

From doctors’ visits to medication and even rehabilitation, medical costs are increasing due to in part to drinking. Hospitalisation due to drunk driving incidents or even accidents due to drunk pedestrians  are also on the rise.

South Africans need to reevaluate their coping mechanisms. Alcohol abuse leads to absolutely preventable diseases which will save them money and improve their wellbeing in the long run.