Alcohol’s Secondhand Harms in the United States: New Data on Prevalence and Risk Factors
This study examined a range of indicators of alcohol’s harm to others (AHTO) among U.S. adults and assessed sociodemographic and alcohol-related risk factors for AHTO.
The data came from 8,750 adult men and women in two parallel 2015 U.S. national surveys conducted in English and Spanish. Both surveys used computer-assisted telephone interviews and two-stage, stratified, list-assisted, random samples of adults ages 18 and older.
One in five adults experienced at least one of ten 12-month harms because of someone else’s alcohol use.
The prevalence of specific harm types and characteristics differed by gender. Women were more likely to report harm due to alcohol use by a spouse/partner or family member, whereas men were more likely to report harm due to a stranger’s alcohol use. Being female also predicted family/financial harms.
Younger age increased risk for all AHTO types, except physical aggression.
Being of Black/other ethnicity, being separated/widowed/divorced, and having a college education without a degree each predicted physical aggression harm. The harmed individual’s own heavy alcohol use and having a heavy alcohol user in the household increased risk for all AHTO types. The risk for physical aggression due to someone else’s alcohol use was particularly elevated for heavy alcohol using women.
Secondhand effects of alcohol in the United States are substantial and affected by sociodemographics, the harmed individual’s own alcohol use, and the presence of a heavy alcohol user in the household. Broad-based and targeted public health measures that consider AHTO risk factors are needed to reduce alcohol’s secondhand harms.