Forget secondhand smoke. Now you have to worry about the secondhand drinking.
One fifth of adults — or an estimated 53 million people in the United States — suffer from other people’s boozing annually, making this “a significant public health issue,” according to a new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
“One thing to think about with the 1 in 5 number is that it is only limited to a snapshot in time of about a year. So, probably more people have actually been harmed by someone else’s drinking at other times in their life,” study author Katherine Karriker-Jaffe, a senior scientist with the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute in Emeryville, Calif., said.
Researchers analyzed responses from 8,750 adults interviewed in 2015 for the National Alcohol’s Harm to Others Survey and the National Alcohol Survey. Subjects were asked whether they experienced any of the 10 types of harms — caused by someone who had been drinking alcohol — in a 12-month period. The damages included everything from traffic accidents, physical abuse, marital problems, property damage and financial issues.
The current research, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, analyzed the data to provide insight for potential alcohol control policies, such as taxation and pricing to reduce alcohol’s harm to persons other than the drinker.
Researchers said that 21% of women and 23% of men experienced at least one negative impact. The most common type of harm reported was threats or harassment.
“For women, the most prevalent [types of harm, after harassment] are family and marital problems or financial problems due to someone else’s drinking and a close third runner-up would be driving-related harms — so riding with a drunk driver or actually having a crash caused by someone who had been drinking,” says Karriker-Jaffe. “For men, [after harassment,] the driving-related harms were the most common, followed by property damage and vandalism.”
Adults under the age of 25 were at a higher risk to experience a broader range of issues from other people’s drinking.
The study also found that women were more likely to report harm caused by a spouse or family member who was hitting the sauce. Men were more likely to report issues that were caused by a stranger.