Alcohol consumption harms not only the drinkers but also their fellow human beings

Alcohol consumption harms not only the drinkers but also their fellow human beings

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Alcohol consumption often harms uninvolved people who do not drink

It has long been known that alcohol has a negative impact on our health. Researchers have now found that people also suffer greatly from the consequences of alcohol consumption in their environment. Such impacts include threats, vandalism and financial problems.

The current study by the University of North Dakota found that alcohol not only harms consumers, but also often has negative consequences for other people. The results were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs".

Dangers from passive smoking are well known

It is known that the smoke from cigarettes not only harms the smoker himself, but also bystanders. In this case, the cause and effect are clearly recognizable: carcinogens are released into the air, people absorb them and cancer rates rise. But what about alcohol consumption? Many people assume that alcohol only harms them. However, the new study shows that the effects of alcohol consumption also affect other people. When evaluating two 2015 surveys involving 8,750 adult men and women, the team found that 21 percent of female and 23 percent of male respondents suffered from the effects of someone else's alcohol consumption.

What effects has alcohol consumption on other people?

The danger from alcohol takes various forms: threat, vandalism, physical aggression, harassment, financial problems, family problems and accidents related to driving under the influence of alcohol. Threats or harassment came first in 16 percent of all respondents.

One in five adults was affected

The impact of alcohol consumption on other people's health affects one in five adults, according to the study. The authors described alcohol as a major public health problem, particularly due to heavy alcohol consumption. The study defined drinking as heavy drinking in men as five or more alcoholic beverages and in women as four or more alcoholic beverages at least one day a month.

Respondents who were never married also reported more cases in which other people suffered from alcohol consumption. However, the prevalence of children in the household did not seem to be a factor.

40 percent of alcohol-related deaths do not affect drinkers

The freedom to drink alcohol must not lead to other people suffering from murder, alcohol-related sexual assault, car accidents, domestic violence and neglect (especially children). Measures should be taken to control excessive alcohol consumption, particularly given that 40 percent of alcohol-related deaths do not affect the drinkers themselves.

Higher taxes on alcohol are required

In order to reduce the risk for non-drinking people from drinking alcohol, the researchers advocate higher taxes and stricter enforcement measures. Control measures such as pricing alcohol, taxing, limiting availability and restricting advertising may be the most effective means of reducing not only alcohol consumption, but also the harm done to others by alcohol users, the researchers explain. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Madhabika B. Nayak, Deidre Patterson, Sharon C. Wilsnack, Katherine J. Karriker-Jaffe, Thomas K. Greenfield: Alcohol's Secondhand Harms in the United States: New Data on Prevalence and Risk Factors, in Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

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