The dangers of second-hand booze: 1 in 5 Americans have been hurt by another person’s drinking, study finds
- The study by the Public Health Institute in California found 53 million Americans had been hurt by people drinking
- They were either physically or emotionally hurt, or suffered damage to their property, by drunk people
- The researchers say it’s likely a woeful underestimate because abused people are less able to take part in these studies
A fifth of US adults have been abused or hurt by someone drinking alcohol, according to a new report.
The study, published today, found 53 million people said they had been harmed at least once by someone under the influence of alcohol in 2015.
Some suffered physical abuse, some emotional, some financial, and some had their belongings trashed.
While men were more likely harmed by a stranger, women were much more likely to be hurt by a loved-one, they found.
Lead author Katherine Karriker-Jaffe at the Public Health Institute in California told CNN this number of people affected is likely a woeful underestimate.
Women were more likely to report physical abuse, family problems, financial trouble, or being a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver (file image)
‘One thing to think about with the one-in-five number is that it is only limited to a snapshot in time of about a year,’ Karriker-Jaffe, whose paper was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, told CNN.
‘So probably more people have actually been harmed by someone else’s drinking at other times in their life.
‘So it might be an underestimate of the negative impacts of alcohol on people other than the drinker.’
The team looked at data on nearly 9,000 people over 18 who took part in either the 2015 National Alcohol’s Harm to Others Survey or the 2015 National Alcohol Survey.
Through online and phone interviews, they found that 23 percent of men and 21 percent of women had suffered one of the following:
- feeling threatened or afraid
- having belongings ruined
- having property vandalized
- being pushed, hit or assaulted
- being physically harmed
- being in a traffic accident
- being a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver
- having family or marital problems
- having financial trouble
More often than not, men reported having their property vandalized.
Women were more likely to report physical abuse, family problems, financial trouble, or being a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver.
Physical aggression was most widely reported among women who drink heavily themselves.
It was also more likely among middle-aged and older Americans, particularly those who’ve been through a break-up or divorce, who dropped out of college, and those of ethnic minorities.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr Timothy Naimi, an epidemiologist who specializes in alcohol at Boston Medical Center, said more work is needed to clarify how these numbers match up to data from other years – whether it is, as he suspects, a building trend.
Dr Naimi added that ‘even this robust prevalence is likely an underestimate’ since people subjected to harm are less able to participate in these kinds of studies.
‘This is an emerging area of investigation in its relative infancy and is one that needs nurturing and growth,’ Dr Naimi said.
‘Prevention of secondhand effects from others’ drinking at the population level must be driven by structural, environmental interventions that reduce excessive drinking.’