Newswise — While many people consider drinking to be a pleasurable activity at home or in social venues with friends, it can result in harm to the user and to others who are affected by the user’s drinking. These harms can include inter-personal violence, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), emotional neglect, and social embarrassment, which can adversely affect close relationships, such as with family, and extended relationships, such as with friends, co-workers, and more distant relatives. This study analyzed the impact of having close- and extended-proximity relationships with a harmful drinker among men and women in 10 countries.

Researchers examined data on alcohol’s harms to others from national/regional surveys conducted in 10 countries. The data were collected via two large projects: the WHO/Thai Health Collaborative Study of Alcohol’s Harms to Others, and the Alcohol’s Harm to Others: Multinational Cultural Contexts and Policy Implications (GENAHTO) project. The 10 countries were: Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Chile, U.S.A., Lao P.D.R., Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Sri Lanka. Seven types of harm experienced because of the drinking of known people in the previous 12 months were investigated, which ranged from having less money for household expenses, to physical harm, to being forced/pressured to have sex.

Harms related to the drinking of others differed by gender. Women were more likely than men to report a close male as the most harmful drinker in their life; these women were also more likely than women with an extended most harmful drinker to report each type of harm, and one or more harms, from others’ drinking. Men were more likely to report a male in their extended social circle as the most harmful drinker in their life. There was no difference in odds of reporting most types of harm from others’ drinking between men with an extended most harmful drinker and men with a close most harmful drinker. The authors suggested that the primary focus of efforts to prevent alcohol-related harm to women should be on heavy or harmful drinkers in close-proximity relationships; for preventing harm to men, a broader approach is needed. They further noted that their findings can help to develop context- and gender-specific interventions to reduce alcohol-related harms to others.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research