TUESDAY, July 2, 2019 (HealthDay News) — People who drink alcohol don’t only put themselves at risk, they’re also endangering family and friends.
A new study finds the effects of “secondhand” alcohol harms are widespread, with nearly 1 in 5 Americans — 53 million people — reporting having been harmed by someone else’s drinking during the past year.
Those harms include threats or harassment, damaged property, vandalism, physical aggression, financial problems, relationship issues and issues related to driving.
“Heavy drinkers should be aware of how they might be impacting the lives of people around them,” said study co-author Katherine Karriker-Jaffe, a senior scientist with the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute in Emeryville, Calif.
If people know more about the secondhand harms from alcohol, that knowledge “may change the norms about what’s considered acceptable,” she said. And that may affect public policies, such as proposals to allow bars to stay open later or to lower taxes on alcohol.
The study findings were published July 1 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Sven Andreasson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden noted that “alcohol generates health problems on a massive scale.”
He pointed out that more than 5% of deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol.
“What is striking about alcohol is its global toxic impact: on virtually all organs of the body as well as on most sectors of society. Health, education, transportation, agriculture, trade and so on — all need to address the impact of alcohol,” Andreasson wrote.
The new study included data from two nationwide U.S. surveys conducted in 2015. They included almost 9,000 adults.
Researchers found that 21% of women and 23% of men were harmed by someone else’s drinking in the past year. Although men and women reported similar levels of harm, the harms they experienced were different.
Women were more likely to have money troubles or family problems due to someone else’s drinking. For men, secondhand alcohol harms often included ruined property, vandalism and physical aggression. They were more likely to report harm due to a stranger’s alcohol use.