Alcohol's secondhand harms prevalent among U.S. women and men

Secondhand harms of drinking affect 1 in 5 adults study says	 	 	 			Getty Images

Secondhand harms of drinking affect 1 in 5 adults study says Getty Images

Alcohol consumption not only affects the person who takes it but causes significant harm to other people as well, finds a study.

"T$3 he freedom to drink alcohol must be counter-balanced by the freedom from being afflicted by others' drinking in ways manifested by homicide, alcohol-related sexual assault, auto crashes, domestic abuse, lost household wages, and child neglect", writes Timothy Naimi, M.D., M.P.H., of the Boston Medical Center in an accompanying commentary.

The study involved analyzing data on 8,750 adults who answered survey questions from two databases: the 2015 National Alcohol's Harm to Others Survey and the 2015 National Alcohol Survey. These harms included threats or harassment, vandalism, physical aggression, harms related to driving, or financial or family problems, according to the study. The most common harm was threats or harassment, reported by 16% of survey respondents.

Each adult was asked whether they had experienced any of 10 different types of harm in the past 12 months caused by "someone who had been drinking".

Overall, women were more likely than men to report harm by a spouse, partner or family member who had been drinking, and men were more likely to report harm because of a stranger's drinking, the data showed.

She said both men and women seem to be affected by the secondhand effect of alcohol, even though men are more likely than women to drink excessively.

Age was also an important factor during the research, with younger people, under 25, experiencing issues from secondhand drinking.

Younger people tend to drink more in the USA, and subsequently experience more overdoses or other acute alcohol-related harms. In the United States, about 20% of adults say they were harmed at least once in the past year due to someone else's drinking, CNN reports. And Americans who drank, especially heavy drinkers, were more at risk for secondhand harms of drinking, too, like harassment or threats from other drinkers.

Researchers are now calling for an increase tax on alcoholic beverages, noting a link between increased alcohol taxes and decreases in excessive drinking and a noticeable reduction in the levels of harm directed to others.

"These harms are missed if we only focus on the problems that heavy drinkers experience as a result of their own alcohol use", Karriker-Jaffe, who works at the institute's Alcohol Research Group, told Gizmodo via email.

Nayak said: "Control policies, such as alcohol pricing, taxation, reduced availability, and restricting advertising, may be the most effective ways to reduce not only alcohol consumption but also alcohol's harm to persons other than the drinker". & Greenfield, T. K. (2019).

Naimi, T. (2019). Toward firsthand knowledge of the secondhand effects of alcohol: A commentary on Nayak et al.

Support for this research was provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) under awards R01AA022791 (Greenfield and Karriker-Jaffe), R01AA023870 (Greenfield, Bloomfield, and Wilsnack), and P50AA005595 (Years 31-35, Greenfield; Years 36-40, Kerr).

For sixty years, the Alcohol Research Group (ARG) has been actively engaged in critically needed alcohol- and other drug-related public health research. ARG is also home to the NIAAA-funded National Alcohol Research Center and training program.

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