Who pays for the drinking? Characteristics of the extent and distribution of social harms from others’ drinking


Ingeborg Rossow, Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research, POB 565 Sentrum, N-0105 Oslo, Norway, Tel: + 47 22 34 02 63, Fax: + 47 22 34 04 01, E-mail: ingeborg.rossow@sirus.no


Aims  To explore the extent and distribution of experienced negative consequences from other people's drinking and to explore what characterizes the victims of these harms.

Design, participants and measurements  Cross-sectional survey in a national sample of adults. Net sample comprised 2170 respondents. Negative consequences from others’ drinking during the past 12 months were assessed by seven items.

Results  The more severe types of consequences (being physically hurt or property damage) were reported less often (by 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively) than the least severe type of consequence (being kept awake at night by drunk people, reported by 21.2%), thus leaving the four other types of consequences (being harassed in public places, being harassed in private parties, being scolded at and being afraid of drunk people in public areas) somewhere in between. The extent to which the respondents had been subject to social harm from others’ drinking displayed a very skewed distribution. The majority reported not to have experienced any such harms, whereas a small proportion had been harmed repeatedly and in various ways. Multivariate analyses showed that social harms from others’ drinking were most often reported by younger persons, women, those with high education level, those who reported a higher annual alcohol intake, more frequent episodes of intoxication and more frequent visits to public drinking places. The impact of intoxication frequency on victimization from alcohol-related social harms was stronger for women than for men. Similar individual characteristics were also associated with victimization from physical harm and victimization in the public sphere.

Conclusions  Relatively minor harms from others’ drinking are experienced quite frequently. The social victims of others’ drinking tend to drink heavily themselves, yet in contrast to what characterizes social consequences of own drinking, we find that the burden of social harms from others’ drinking is to a larger extent carried by women than by men.