Don’t Let Drink Sneak Up on You!

Ever thought about the effect of alcohol on others, even those who don't drink?

NHCCG Dry January

This Institute of Alcohol Studies Report shows that the majority of Britons are harmed by other's drinking:

Surveys conducted across Western countries have identified that the prevalence of harm from another person’s drinking is high (e.g. 70% in Australia and 53% in the USA).

The cost
In the UK, the cost of alcohol’s harm to others was estimated in 2004 at up to £15.4 billion including £1.4-1.7 billion to the health service, up to £7.3 billion in crime and public disorder costs and up to £6.4 billion in workplace related costs.

The effect on children
In a cross-European study of domestic abuse experienced by young people living in families with alcohol problems, children described a range of stressful implications of living with a parent in treatment for alcohol problems.

These included:

  • being afraid of either their father (57%) or mother (32%)
  • witnessing extreme violence between their parents (37% reported severe physical assault by the father against the mother and 22% the reverse)
  • physical violence or aggression towards themselves (the young person), including hitting, burning or scalding, and choking, with 12% reporting extreme physical assault by the father and 9% by the mother.

What is being done about all of this?

The Institute of Alcohol Studies has found the following:

  • Policy to address alcohol’s harm to others is less well developed than policy that seeks to address harm to the drinker himself or herself. Exceptions include crime and violence and harm to the unborn foetus, which are included in the UK Government’s Alcohol Strategy.

  • The EU Alcohol Strategy 2006-2012 addressed aspects of harm to others, for example harm to the unborn foetus and injuries from road traffic accidents. However, the strategy ended in 2012 and has not been replaced.

  • The WHO European Action Plan also highlights a range of issues related to alcohol’s harm to others, including drink driving, workplace absenteeism and low productivity, crime, public disturbance and foetal alcohol syndrome.

  • National policies that focus on specific aspects of alcohol’s harm to others include: alcohol advice during pregnancy, NICE public health guidance to increase awareness of alcohol’s harm to others among health care professionals, drink driving legislation, and licensing measures designed to tackle harm in the night-time economy.

  • In addition to policies and guidance targeted specifically towards reducing alcohol’s harm to others, any effective policy targeted to reduce alcohol consumption could also be expected to reduce harm to others, including in front line services such as the police and hospitals.

  • To date however, the impact of broader changes in alcohol consumption on harms to those other than the drinker has not been widely studied. It is therefore important to test the validity of expectations that general reductions of alcohol consumption will impact on alcohol’s harm to others.

  • The scale of alcohol’s harm to others provides an imperative to ensure effective population level policies are implemented (and evaluated) alongside policies that emphasise personal responsibility or focus exclusively on the individual, to reduce alcohol-related harms for the whole population.