Prevalence and factors associated with alcohol use among undergraduate students in Gulu University
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Introduction: University students could be at risk of high alcohol consumption because of less parental control, less strict school rules, living alone for the first time and peer pressure. However, there is limited data about the prevalence and factors associated with alcohol use in Gulu University. General Objective: To determine the prevalence of alcohol use and associated factors among undergraduate students in Gulu University. Methods: This was a cross sectional study among 968 undergraduate students in Gulu University in northern Uganda. The participants were recruited using two probability sampling techniques, proportion to size sampling method by faculty, course and year of study, and simple random sampling within each stratum using a computer-generated random number and a class list. A self-administered Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) tool with a section on socio-demographic characteristics was used to collect data from February to March 2020. Data were analyzed with STATA version 15. Prevalence was measured using proportion of students who reported that they use alcohol, and factors associated using modified Poisson regression with robust standard errors, after accounting for clustering by faculty and year of study. Results: A total of 968 participants were successfully interviewed with a response rate of 96.8%. The mean age was 22.9 years (3.0) with the majority of participants being males (82.8%) and single (84.0%). Most participants were catholics (43.9%), from northern Uganda (57.8%) and living in hostel (84.4%). The median monthly pocket money was 100,000 (50,000-200,000) and most household heads attained tertiary education (57.6%). The prevalence of alcohol use was 35.2% (95% CI; 32.3%-38.3%) and 7% of the students were high end alcohol users. The prevalence of alcohol consumption was significantly higher among students with an average monthly pocket money greater than UGSHS 300,000 (aPR=1.34, 95%CI; 1.07-1.68), between UGSHS150,000 and UGSHS 300,000 (aPR=1.37, 95%CI; 1.13-1.66) and students in year 3 of study (aPR=1.44, 95%CI; 1.17-1.77). The prevalence was also significantly lower among females (aPR= 0.68, 95%CI; 0.56-0.83), born again Christians (aPR=0.48, 95%CI; 0.35-0.65) and Muslims (aPR=0.18, 95%CI; 0.06-0.56). Conclusion: 35.2% of the students use alcohol in Gulu University and 7% were high end users of alcohol. The factors significantly and independently associated with alcohol use were sex, year of study, average monthly pocket money and religion. Strategies by policy makers, university administration and counsellors to address this problem among university students should be devised especially targeting high risk groups like males, Catholics, those with an average monthly pocket money greater than UGSHS 150,000 and those in 3rd year of study. Recommendations: There is need for the university management and student counsellors’ team to strengthen the orientation programs and come up with group or individual activities that address the various social demographic factors associated with alcohol use among university students. There is also need for policy makers to revise the minimum age of alcohol users from 18 to 24, to cater for university students who are still young and naive and can easily be influenced to use alcohol.