One In Five Adults Experience Harm Because Of Other People’s Drinking, Study Finds

Man drinks a beer at a protest.
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One in five adults living in the United States experiences harm as a result of other people’s drinking, according to new research published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The study revealed that approximately 23 percent of men and 21 percent of women — an estimated 53 million people — have been on the receiving end of harm courtesy of drinkers. These harms include violence, harassment and vandalism, as well as problems related to driving, finances, and family issues.

However, the most popular forms of harm reported by those surveyed were violence and harassment. According to the study, 16 percent of participants had experienced one of these.

Gender also played a role in what types of harms were experienced by participants. For example, women were more likely to report problems pertaining to family and finances. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to report vandalism, damaged property and physical aggression.

The study also found there is “considerable risk” for females, usually from males who drink heavily. As for men, they tend to experience the most harm from people outside their families.

The journal notes that people under the age of 25 had a higher risk of experiencing harm from another person’s drinking.

Woman with her head in her hands, surrounded by bottles of alcohol.
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Factors such as age and a person’s own alcohol consumption were also examined. Findings showed that participants who were heavy drinkers themselves were likelier to experience harm in regards to other people’s alcohol consumption. The study defined heavy drinking as five or more drinks at a time for men, and four or more drinks at a time for women at least once a month within a year.

That said, the study also found that even those who weren’t considered heavy drinkers were more prone to experiencing harm while drinking. According to the report, non-heavy drinkers were still three times more likely to encounter harassment, threats, and driving-related incidents than people who abstain.

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The team of researchers was led by Madhabika B. Nayak, Ph.D., of the Alcohol Research Group, according to the Irish Post. To conduct the study, they analyzed data from the National Alcohol’s Harm to Others Survey and the National Alcohol Survey, both of which were conducted via telephone calls with participants in 2015.

For more contemporary research, they also looked at data from 8,750 respondents aged 18 and over.

Following their investigation, Nayak is calling for higher alcohol taxation and pricing to reduce its harmful effects.

“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.”