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It’s no cause for pride that SA sits near the top of the chart as a nation of drinkers. This ranking is according to the 2018 global status report on alcohol and health published by the World Health Organisation (WHO). While only a third (31%) of adults report consuming alcohol in the past year, those who do drink tend to drink heavily. According to the latest available statistics, the average drinker in SA consumed 30l of pure alcohol in 2016. That level of consumption per drinker places the country in the sixth position globally — up from 11th place in 2010. WHO assesses the danger of a country’s drinking not only on the basis of “how much it drinks” but on “how it drinks”. Drinking small amounts of alcohol that tot up to a large amount annually is less harmful than occasionally drinking large amounts of alcohol that add up to the same amount per year. That’s because the liver, which detoxifies alcohol, copes better with small amounts. Using a scale of one to five, the WHO scores ...

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