Did COVID-19-Related Alcohol Sales Restrictions Reduce Alcohol Consumption? Findings from a National Online Survey in South Africa

Journal Article


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Background: South Africa has a high prevalence of heavy episodic drinking (HED). Due to the high levels of alcohol misuse and violence, public hospital intensive care units were often overrun during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research investigated alcohol intake behaviour change during differing levels of lockdown restrictions, which included bans on alcohol sales. Methods: A self-reported Facebook survey ran from July to November 2020. The questions included socio-demographics, income, alcohol intake, purchasing behaviour, and reasoning. Chi-square tests/Fisher&rsquo;s exact test for categorical data, Student&rsquo;s <i>t</i>-test for normal continuous data, and the Mann&ndash;Whitney U test for non-normal data were applied. Multiple logistic regression was run for HED versus moderate drinkers. Results: A total of 798 participants took part in the survey, of which 68.4% were female. Nearly 50% of participants fell into the HED category and the majority bought alcohol illegally during restrictions. HED respondents who drank more alcohol than usual during restrictions reported that they felt stressed, needed to relax, and were bored. Conclusions: Policies intended to increase the pricing of alcohol may have the potential to reduce alcohol intake. Reducing stress and anxiety may be key to curtailing HED during emergency situations.