Life-orientation programmes potentially ineffective in curbing underage drinking

The increase was particularly noticeable amongst female participants in Free State schools.
The increase was particularly noticeable amongst female participants in Free State schools.

Ingrid Louw, CEO of the Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education ( asks, "How do we disrupt the trend of adolescent alcohol consumption so that our youth are not robbed of a bright future"?

Recent research by, an organisation that promotes responsible drinking, reveals that the answer does not appear to be in the form of structured Life-Orientation (LO) programmes.

In 2019 piloted an early intervention programme ‘It Starts Today’ that aimed to prevent and interrupt underage drinking amongst school-going youth aged 16 and 17 in the Free State and Mpumalanga provinces.

An increase in alcohol consumption

The pilot phase of the programme tested whether LO programmes were effective tools to educate learners on the harms associated with alcohol use and to change adolescents’ behaviours and perceptions of alcohol use and underage drinking.

While the programme, implemented by Teenactiv1, intended to promote a ‘say no to alcohol’ attitude amongst Grade 10 to 12 learners, findings showed there was in fact an increase in alcohol consumption among the participants over the study period.  

The increase was particularly noticeable amongst female participants in Free State schools.

Beer, wine and a shot of hard liquor (such as brandy, whisky, rum, vodka or gin) mixed with a cold-drink were named as the most 'usual drinks', and just over two thirds of all learners reported that they had consumed more than two drinks the last time they had alcohol, which was on average once a week.

Adolescent directed programmes remain extremely important

The results suggest the LO programme needs to be adapted to effectively reduce underage drinking, but results from the research also show that adolescent directed programmes and interventions for alcohol use remain extremely important.

They serve to prevent the development of harmful drinking behaviour during adolescence, and to interrupt pathways into adult alcohol use and dependence.

Notably, learners in the Mpumalanga sample identified teachers informing them about the dangers of drinking alcohol as a key reason for not drinking.

All learners reported that the most common reasons for not drinking are the perception that drinking could increase risk-taking behaviours, knowing that drinking is against the law, parents/guardians informing them about the dangers of drinking alcohol, and a belief that drinking alcohol has a bad influence on one’s future.

Must read: Can teens drink alcohol under parental supervision or is that breaking the law?

‘Most of my friends drink alcohol’

On the other hand, the research also showed that personal interactions and peer influences are key factors that impact an adolescents’ own alcohol use.

The primary reasons reported for drinking alcohol included ‘it helps me relax’, ‘it makes it easier for me to talk to others’ and ‘most of my friends drink alcohol’.

Peer pressure to use alcohol came out far ahead when compared to positive peer encouragement to resist alcohol. says that while these findings do not support the outcomes of the programme, they are not unexpected.

50% of school going children have used alcohol

According to local research, experimentation with substances generally commences during adolescence, particularly between the ages of 13 and 17 years, and approximately 50% of school-going youth have used alcohol.

Three primary factors that contribute to adolescent substance use in their communities include parental alcohol use, peer alcohol use and influences, and easy accessibility to alcohol, especially through local taverns. continues to be committed to reducing underage drinking and plans to revisit the LO programme to include a community based participatory action research (CBPAR) approach where stakeholders and researchers work collaboratively to co-develop a targeted programme.

Share with us:

Share your stories with us, and we could publish them. Anonymous contributions are always welcome.

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

Read more:

Actually, all the cool kids AREN'T doing it 

How do today's teens compare with teens in the 1970s

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 2100 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
47% - 8832 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
38% - 7129 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 699 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.