South Africans are heavy drinkers and the country ranks high on the list in terms of alcohol consumption compared to other nations.

Binge drinking refers to drinking a high volume of alcohol in a short space of time. Basically, it means getting drunk.

Alcohol is the most commonly used mind-altering substance and most people don’t realise alcohol is a drug. Alcohol, especially excessive alcohol consumption like binge drinking, can cause a lot of harm both to the person who is drinking as well as those around him or her.

If you binge on alcohol, it doesn’t mean you are an alcoholic but it is associated with an increased risk of developing an addiction to alcohol. If you need treatment for alcohol addiction, click here to change your life today.

But what exactly is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks (for men) and four or more drinks (for women) in a short space od time, typically a couple of hours. Heavy binge drinking is when a person has three or more of these episodes within two weeks.

Here are 4 scary facts about binge drinking in South Africa

1. A quarter to a half of South Africa’s drinking population are binge drinkers

Depending on the source of information, between 25 and 50% of people who consume alcohol in South Africa are classified as binge drinkers. Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for 2015 ranked South Africa as the third biggest drinking nation in Africa and the 19th biggest drinking nation in the world. The WHO found that more than a quarter of South Africans who drink alcohol are binge drinkers, consuming 60 grams or more of pure alcohol in one sitting within a 30-day timespan.

According to a document compiled by South Africa’s Department of Trade Industry and Competition, a review of drinking practices in 20 African countries found that 23% of South Africans had consumed alcohol in the previous week. But nearly half of these drinkers (48%) had binged – drinking five or more units of alcohol on one or more occasions. A whopping 29% were categorised as heavy drinkers, drinking 15 or more units of alcohol in the previous week. The research found that binge drinking was five times higher on weekends compared to weekdays. The rate of weekly binge drinking amongst drinkers in South Africa is almost 50% which is much higher than the global average of 11.5%.

2. Almost 70% of high-school learners in Gauteng have been drunk

A study conducted on learners in Gauteng found that 66% of learners – almost seven in 10 – had been drunk, in other words had participated in binge drinking. The majority of these learners were in grades 10, 11 and 12. Harmful drinking patterns are reportedly on the rise amongst adolescents and young adults. Binge drinking at a young age has been found to have a serious negative impact on education outcomes. Two thirds of learners admitted that their parents or caregivers were not aware of their alcohol consumption.

3. Between 29 000 and 62 000 deaths per year are caused by alcohol consumption

Up to 62 000 deaths per year are caused by alcohol consumption with the vast majority caused by episodes of binge drinking, according to data from 2020. An estimated half a million people die in South Africa annually, according to 2018 mortality data from Statistics South Africa. This means alcohol causes up to 13% of all deaths in the country.

4. South Africa’s alcohol industry relies on binge drinking

According to research published in 2018, the vast majority (93.9%) of the absolute alcohol sold was consumed by heavy drinkers or binge drinkers. The research was conducted on a sample of drinkers in the country’s capital Tshwane. Just over half of all of the people in this study were classified as heavy drinkers. This suggests “the alcohol industry’s revenues in South Africa depend on heavy drinking” and this contradicts the alcohol industry’s argument “that alcohol-related problems only affect a subset of drinkers and the majority of drinkers consume alcohol ‘responsibly’”.

Are you worried that you or a loved one has an alcohol problem? Contact Changes today for a free assessment. 

There is always help and there is always hope.

Call 081-444-7000 or email Change@ChangesRehab.co.za to get the help you need today.