Social Acceptance of Alcohol Use in Uganda
Alcohol use is part of many cultural, religious and social practices, and provides perceived pleasure to many users. In many societies, alcoholic beverages are a routine part of the social landscape for many in the population. Relatively low rates were reported for Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) in a community-based survey and facility detection survey conducted in the study site contrary to findings in earlier formative studies where alcohol use was reported to be a major health problem. The aim of this study was to understand the reasons for under-reporting and the low detection rate for AUDs, exploring societal perceptions of alcohol use in the study district.
The study was conducted in Kamuli District (implementation site for the PRIME project). Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with purposively selected participants that included local and religious leaders, lay people, health workers as well as heavy alcohol users and their spouses. Interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The analysis followed four thematic areas, which include the extent and acceptability of alcohol use, patterns of alcohol use, perceived health problems associated with alcohol use and help-seeking behavior for persons with alcohol related problems.
The findings indicate that alcohol consumption in the study site was common and widely acceptable across all categories of people and only frowned upon if the person becomes a nuisance to others. These findings suggest that the health problems associated with alcohol use are overlooked except when they are life-threatening. Help-seeking for such problems was therefore reported to be relatively rare.
Alcohol was readily available in the community and its consumption widely acceptable, with less social sanctions despite the legal restrictions to the minors. The social acceptance results in low recognition of alcohol use related health problems, consequently resulting in poor help-seeking behavior.