WASHINGTON: Alcohol consumption not only affects the person who takes it but causes significant harm to other people as well, finds a study.
The study was published in the 'Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs'.
"The freedom to drink alcohol must be counter-balanced by the freedom from being afflicted by others' drinking in ways manifested by homicide, alcohol-related sexual assault, car crashes, domestic abuse, lost household wages, and child neglect," wrote Timothy Naimi, Boston Medical Center.
An analysis of the United States national survey data from 8,750 respondents age 18 and older found that some 21 per cent of women and 23 per cent of men, an estimated 53 million adults, experienced harm because of someone else's drinking in the last 12 months.
These harms could be threats or harassment, ruined property or vandalism, physical aggression, harms related to driving, or financial or family problems. The most common harm was threats or harassment, reported by 16 per cent of survey respondents.
The specific types of harm experienced differed with gender. Women were more likely to report financial and family problems, whereas ruined property, vandalism, and physical aggression were more likely to be reported by men.
There is "considerable risk for women from heavy, often male drinkers in the household and, for men, from drinkers outside their family," the authors wrote.
Additional factors, including age and the person's own drinking, were also important. People younger than age 25 had a higher risk of experiencing harm from someone else's drinking.
Further, almost half of men and women who themselves were heavy drinkers said they had been harmed by someone else's drinking. Even people who drank but not heavily were at two to three times the risk of harassment, threats, and driving-related harm compared with abstainers.