Alcohol's harm to others: reduced wellbeing and health status for those with heavy drinkers in their lives

Addiction. 2011 Jun;106(6):1087-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03361.x. Epub 2011 Mar 7.


Aims: The impact of alcohol on those other than the drinker is an under-researched area with important policy implications. This study is a first step in investigating relationships between exposure to heavy drinkers in respondent's lives with measures of health status and wellbeing.

Design setting and participants: A cross-sectional general population survey was carried out among 3068 New Zealand residents aged 12-80 years (response rate 64%) using an in-house computer-assisted telephone interviewing system.

Measurements: Respondents' estimates of health status (European Quality of Life-5 Dimensions) and subjective wellbeing (Personal Wellbeing Index) were measured along with self-reports of heavy drinkers in their lives, demographic variables and own drinking.

Findings: More than one in four of the sample had experienced someone they considered to be a heavy drinker in their environment in the past 12 months. An index of exposure to heavy drinkers, reflecting numbers of heavy drinkers and cohabitation, predicted lower health status and personal wellbeing while controlling for demographic variables and respondent's own drinking.

Conclusions: Cross-sectional data from a general population sample suggest that there is a relationship between exposure to heavy drinkers and reduced personal wellbeing and poorer health status. Exposure to heavy drinkers may have negative impacts for others.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Child
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life*
  • Young Adult