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African women are non-drinkers

81 per cent of African women report themselves to be non-drinkers, says data from the World Health Surveys. This is an important fact to take into account in planning of alcohol prevention strategies and policies.

In the latest round of the WHO World Health Surveys 40.739 women from 20 African countries were interviewed also about their alcohol drinking habits. Close to 34.000 reported lifetime abstinence from alcohol. This is 81 % of the respondents in the survey. The proportion of current alcohol drinkers ranged from 1% in Malawi to 20% in Burkina Faso.

Four researchers – Priscilla Martinez, Jo Røislien, Nirmala Naidoo and Thomas Clausen – have analyzed the data from the WHO survey and presented their results in an article published in BioMed Central. They point to the fact that “Alcohol use is an important factor in any woman’s health risk profile. Harmful patterns of alcohol consumption are strongly associated with increased morbidity and mortality”.

Read the full article here.

The conclusions of the article are: “A variety of drinking patterns are present among African women with lifetime abstention the most common. Countries with hazardous consumption patterns require serious attention to mitigate alcohol-related harm. Some similarities in factors related to alcohol use can be identified between different African countries, although these are limited and highlight the contextual diversity of female drinking in Africa”.

The researchers comment their findings by writing that the current situation with low prevalence of alcohol use among women represents an opportunity to establish and promote healthy drinking habits among the vast majority of African women. This would serve the public health of African countries far into the future.

At the same time the researchers sound a warning bell related to female drinking: “This effort would be particularly relevant and timely given the current expansion of the alcohol industry in Africa. Women are a large portion of the population available for recruitment into regular drinking and will also benefit from improved economic situations, creating a ‘perfect storm’ for an increase in alcohol use and related harm. Such circumstances and increases in hazardous drinking among women have already been observed in Brazil and India”.

(Photos: Eli Gunnvor Grønsdal (above) and Dag Endal left))