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Alcohol consumption can have a range of negative impacts on people other than the drinker, for example physical violence, road traffic accidents, relationship problems, financial difficulties, feeling scared in public places, or reporting negative impacts on children due to another person’s drinking. Known as alcohol’s harm to others, there is an increasing level of awareness of and research into the role of alcohol in negative health and social outcomes for the family, friends, co-workers, strangers and wider society. To date there has been relatively little research on alcohol’s harm to others in the UK and this research is a first step in filling this evidence gap.
The research reported here aimed to answer two questions:
- Who experiences harm from others’ drinking?
- How do different types of harm from others’ drinking cluster?
The following data was used to answer the research questions:
- A survey of 1,020 people aged 18 years and older living in the North West of England.
- A survey of 1,007 people aged 16 years and older living in Scotland.
Analysis comprised brief descriptive statistics to understand the prevalence of different types of harm to others and chi square tests to examine socio-demographic variations in the experience of each type of harm. We conducted factor analysis to examine how different types of harm cluster.
Analysis of data on alcohol’s harm to others from Scotland and North West England suggests that:
- The prevalence of harm from another person’s drinking is high, with 51.4% of respondents in Scotland reporting at least one of 16 harms, and 78.7% of respondents in North West England reporting at least one of 20 harms in the past 12 months. Commonly reported harms include being harassed, afraid or insulted in a public place, being annoyed by vomiting, urinating or littering on the streets, and being kept awake at night.
- Socio-demographic variations (gender, age and social class) in the prevalence of individual harms were identified in both Scotland and North West England, although there were some differences between the countries in variation by gender and social class. Age was more consistently associated with the prevalence of harm, with older age groups significantly less likely to report having experienced a number of harms than younger age groups.
- The majority of respondents who experienced any harm from someone else’s drinking reported two or more different harms: 67.7% of respondents in North West England and 35.6% in Scotland.
- No significant difference in the experience of individual harms was identified by the respondent’s own drinking behaviour in either country.
- There is evidence for clustering of some types of harms. Analysis reveals two clusters within each dataset, although there are some differences in the harms included within each cluster by country. The first cluster centres on being harassed, threatened or feeling afraid in public spaces in both Scotland and North West England. Household financial difficulties feature in the second cluster, co-occurring with relationship problems in North West England and being kept awake at night in Scotland.
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