Uganda: 61% Started Alcohol Use Before Age 18
According to a survey by the Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA) 61% of the population that uses alcohol started use before 18 years of age.
According to the survey, peer pressure, wanting to test alcohol and stress are leading minors to take up alcohol use. Results also reveal that 31% of those who use alcohol started before they were 14 years old.
These statistics are worrying given that it means 27 million Ugandans are at an increased risk of suffering alcohol-related consequences. Evidence shows that the earlier someone starts using alcohol, the higher is the probability that they develop alcohol problems, such as addiction or chronic diseases, later on in life.
According to the Ministry of Health, alcohol dependency is among the main causes of psychiatric morbidity in Uganda.
As Dr Ivan Kimuli, a physician and clinical research fellow from Lung Institute, said, the research states that young people who begin alcohol use before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin alcohol use after 21 years of age.
Pervasive alcohol harm in Uganda
In Uganda, the alcohol burden is heavily straining society. Total alcohol per capita consumption is relatively high in Uganda at 9.5 liters, which exceeds the WHO African regional average.
Over half (56.9%) of all alcohol consumers above 15 years of age binge on the substance. More than 12% of Ugandan men are affected by an alcohol use disorder. And per capita consumption of alcohol users only is at an alarming rate of 26 liters per year.
Uganda is on the highest end for years of life lost due to alcohol.
Despite this, Uganda still lacks a comprehensive alcohol control policy and is lacking in many areas of alcohol control such as availability restrictions and marketing regulation.
Implementing policies to curb the alcohol harm
To curb underage alcohol use, this year, the Minister of Trade, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, issued a directive to alcohol manufacturing companies to stop the packaging and sale of alcohol in sachets, which was triggered by a Cabinet directive issued in 2017. The Minister recently launched a multi-sectoral coordination task force to enforce the ban.
Reducing alcohol availability and affordability are two key alcohol policy best buys recommended by the WHO. However, Uganda urgently needs a comprehensive national alcohol control policy to effectively curb the alcohol harm in the country.