UNISA have run an 8 year research project on different factors influencing youth in South Africa.  We attended the last feedback session in April.  On the one hand we love statistics because we can get a snapshot idea of what the research looks like.  On the other hand statistics are tricky because there are so many things that researchers can’t include because of budgets or other restraints.  Statistics are perhaps the scientific way to say “I am not sure – there is a 30% chance it will rain and a 70% chance it will not rain.”


1693 learners participated and they looked like this:


  • 12 secondary schools in Gauteng

  • 47% were boys

  • 53% were girls

  • They were in grades 7-12

  • From the ages of 13-17


Tobacco Use

  • 46% have smoked cigarettes

  • Girls smoke more than boys

  • Participants use mostly cigarettes, followed by electronic cigarettes and finally hubbly bubbly

  • They use – to deal with stress and to have fun

  • 4 out of 10 of them have parents who smoke

  • 17% of parents know they smoke

  • 9% smoke in front of their parents


Sport Performance

  • 1 in 10 have used drugs to enhance their sport performance.  6% used Anabolic Androgenic Steroids. 87% were motivated to use these drugs by their parents or caregivers

  • 1 in 10 used drugs to enhance their learning performance.  18% of this sample used during exam or test times

  • 30% of this sample said that their relationships with others deteriorated because of using

  • 5% said they lost friends because of using

  • 13% said they were absent from school on occasion because of using


Alcohol Consumption

  • 60% of users currently use alcohol

  • 48% said that they had been drunk – with up to 56% of matric students reporting that they have been drunk before

  • 25% said that they have binge drinking patterns


When asked why they drink:

  • 49% said to fit in

  • 30% to get away from worries

  • 22% to gain confidence

  • 17% to escape from stress

  • 4 out of 10 said their parents are aware that they drink

  • 26% of learners reported that their parents drink

  • 39% say that drinking is becoming more socially acceptable

  • 53% are aware of the risks of drinking

  • 7.7% have missed a Monday at school because of drinking

  • 24% reported that they have been in trouble because of drinking

  • 6% said that their relationships with their parents have soured


Consequences and risks of drinking for these youngsters are:

  • Violence and victimisation

  • Unintentional Injuries

  • Unnatural death

  • SUD’s (Substance Use Disorders)

  • Risky sexual practices

  • Increased risk for girls for sexual violence

  • Multiple sexual partners

  • Inconsistent condom use

  • Increased Sexual Transmitted Illnesses (STI’s)

  • Increased rates of pregnancy


48% of learners are aware of drug and alcohol awareness.  They hear about these initiatives from the following sources:

  • Educational Programmes                                             

  • Media Initiatives

  • Awareness Campaigns


  • Parents


When asked what they would suggest in terms of awareness programmes, they specified the following sources where they would like to get their information from:

  • Educational school programmes

  • Youth Centres

  • Media initiatives

  • Awareness campaigns

  • Parents

  • Internet




  • Alcohol use is associated with multiple factors (Environmental, social, cultural etc.)

  • Substance abuse starts early

  • Despite knowledge of the risks they drink anyway

  • Rates of use are increasing

  • There is an increase in risky behaviour


In other research presented at the conference:


The Medical Research Council looked at mortality rates for ages 15 – 19 years in non-natural deaths.  It was reported that alcohol was present in 40% of these deaths.


Exposure to advertising (16 – 17 year olds).  They reported seeing advertising as follows:

  • On billboards

  • Music events and festivals

  • Films

  • Social media

  • Adverts via emails

  • Sports sponsorships


How to work towards a better solution:

  • Redress the normal

  • Teach social competence and resistant skills training

  • Clarifying values

  • Parenting and community programmes that run together

  • Short term multiple sessions followed by booster sessions

  • Prevention is more important than cures

  • Limit physical availability of alcohol

  • Conduct workshops for parents identifying drug types and symptoms

  • Education about stigma

  • Education regarding rights and responsibilities


Ineffective strategies have proven to be:

  • Scare tactics

  • Education only

  • Special programmes for “high risk” youth alone


Long term research in all countries has shown that the consequences of substance abuse include:

  • Decline in academic performance

  • Absenteeism

  • Dropping out

  • Learning difficulties

  • Heart disease / cancer / respiratory health

  • Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

  • Vehicle and pedestrian accidents

  • Death