Original Research

Alcohol and drug use as factors for high-school learners’ absenteeism in the Western Cape

Godswill N. Osuafor
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 27 | a1679 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v27i0.1679 | © 2021 Godswill N. Osuafor | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 January 2021 | Published: 14 December 2021

About the author(s)

Godswill N. Osuafor, Population Studies and Demography, North-West University, Mafikeng, South Africa


Background: School absenteeism has been studied in detail in relation to health risk behaviours using cross sectional studies.

Aim: The aim of this longitudinal study was to examine the association amongst alcohol, drug use and high-school learners’ absenteeism.

Setting: This study was set in the Western Cape.

Methods: Data were collected at three separate time points from 2950, 2675 and 2230 grade 8 learners aged 13–18 years old on school absenteeism, alcohol and drug use and sociodemographic characteristics. Associations between school absenteeism, alcohol and cannabis and sociodemographic factors use were examined using descriptive and chi-square analyses. Binary logistic regression was performed using generalised linear mixed model analyses.

Results: Results revealed that 9.3% of the learners were absent for 2 weeks in the 15 weeks of the school year. Alcohol consumption (X2 = 34.1, p < 0.001; odds ratio [OR]: 1.64 (1.38–1.94), p < 0.001) and smoking cannabis (X2 = 49.9, p < 0.001; OR: 2.01 (1.65–2.45), p < 0.001) were associated with school absenteeism at bivariate and multivariate analyses. Furthermore, alcohol (OR: 1.42 (1.06–1.89), p < 0.05) and cannabis (OR: 1.57 (1.11–2.22), p < 0.05) use remained robust in predicting learners school absenteeism after adjusting for age, sex and socioeconomic status.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that alcohol consumption and smoking cannabis are contemporary factors associated with school absenteeism. Therefore, interventions to ensure learners’ consistent attendance to school should integrate prevention of alcohol and cannabis use.


school absenteeism; alcohol use; cannabis smoking; learners; longitudinal study


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Crossref Citations

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