Original Research

An exploration of alcohol use amongst undergraduate female psychology students at a South African university

Indiran Govender, Kathryn Nel, Xolile M. Sibuyi
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 23 | a1022 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v23i0.1022 | © 2017 Indiran Govender, Kathryn Nel, Xolile M. Sibuyi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 June 2016 | Published: 10 April 2017

About the author(s)

Indiran Govender, Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa
Kathryn Nel, Department of Psychology, University of Limpopo, South Africa
Xolile M. Sibuyi, Elim Hospital, South Africa

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Background: Alcohol use amongst tertiary education students, particularly female undergraduates, is increasing. Heavy alcohol use by tertiary students leads to a variety of alcohol-related problems such as damage to property, poor academic performance, problematic peer relationships, high dropout rates, unprotected sexual activity, physical injuries, date rape and suicide. Abuse of alcohol is attributed to curiosity and experimentation, peer pressure, low self-esteem, enjoyment, parental modelling, socio-cultural influences, stress and life events, self-medication and concerns about weight and appearance. Our study explores alcohol use and the reasons behind it amongst undergraduate female psychology students at the University of Limpopo. The findings will be important, as these students represent many future psychologists who are going to advise others on harms related to alcohol use.

Methods: This was a descriptive survey, and the qualitative results are presented. The sample consists of 700 undergraduate female psychology students. A self-administered questionnaire included five open-ended questions which elicited the thoughts and experiences of these students about alcohol use. Responses to these questions were analysed using thematic content analysis.

Results: The themes that arose were as follows: fun and enjoyment, socio-cultural influences, alcohol use leads to negative behaviour(s), peer influence, destress, concerns about weight and appearance, abstinence from alcohol and it improves self-esteem.

Conclusion: The themes were reasons that female students gave for consuming alcohol. The majority of participants reported responsible drinking behaviour, but a notable proportion of female students’ drinking behaviours (across all year levels) are cause for concern in terms of negative impact at both social and academic levels.


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