Alcohol consumption among undergraduate social work students at a South African university

Nyandu, Andiswa
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Alcohol consumption among tertiary students is becoming an urgent public health problem in many parts of the world, including South Africa and has the potential of adversely affecting students’ performance at university. The aim of this study was to investigate the drinking patterns of undergraduate students in the Social Work Department at the University of the Witwatersrand; the factors that contribute to drinking among these students; and the perceived effects of drinking on students’ academic performance. The research was guided by social learning theory and social control theory. A cross-sectional, quantitative, survey research design was employed and the entire population of undergraduate social work students was invited to participate in the study and 145 students completed a group administered questionnaire. The data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The main findings were that the prevalence of alcohol use among the respondents was relatively high (88%) with two-fifths participating in binge drinking, and that enjoyment was the primary reason for drinking. However, despite the high prevalence of drinking behaviour, a high proportion (78%) reported not performing poorly on a test or exam due to alcohol consumption in the past 12 months. The research enhances knowledge of drinking patterns among students and yields recommendations for the prevention of alcohol abuse among those studying to become future healthcare professionals, and for university counselling services aimed at supporting students. Key words: alcohol consumption; undergraduate university students; drinking patterns; social work students