The Relationship Between the U.S. State Alcohol Policy Environment and Individuals' Experience of Secondhand Effects: Alcohol Harms Due to Others' Drinking

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2019 Jun;43(6):1234-1243. doi: 10.1111/acer.14054.


Background: Although restrictive state alcohol policy environments are protective for individuals' binge drinking, research is sparse on the effect of alcohol policies on alcohol's harms to others (AHTO). We examined the lagged associations between efficacy of U.S. state alcohol policies and number of harms from others' drinking 1 year later.

Methods: Individuals with AHTO data in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (analytic sample n = 26,744) that pooled the 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015 National Alcohol Surveys and a 2015 National Alcohol's Harm to Others Survey were linked with prior-year state policy measures. We used 2 measures from the Alcohol Policy Scale (APS)-effectiveness in reducing (i) binge drinking and (ii) impaired driving, based on experts' efficacy judgments regarding 29 state alcohol policies. Three 12-month AHTO measures (due to another drinker) were experiencing: (i) either family/marriage difficulties or financial troubles; (ii) being assaulted or vandalized; and (iii) passenger with drunk driver or traffic accident. Multilevel models accounting for clustering within states and stratified by age-groups (<40 vs. ≥40) examined associations between the APS and AHTO measures, controlling for individual covariates (gender, race, education, employment and marital status, family problem-drinking history) of the victim.

Results: Only for those aged <40, the lagged APS-Binge drinking and APS-Impaired driving scores were each inversely associated with aggression-related harms and, separately, with drunk driving-related harm from someone else's drinking (ps < 0.05 to < 0.01). Family/financial harms were not associated with APS scores for either age-group. Composite AHTO measures (any of 3 harm-types) also were inversely associated with stronger state alcohol policy environments (ps < 0.05 to <0.01).

Conclusions: State alcohol policies may be effective in reducing, to a meaningful degree, aggression-related harms and vehicular hazards due to other drinkers, but mainly in those under 40.

Keywords: Alcohol Externalities; Alcohol Impairment; Binge Drinking; Policy; Surveys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Binge Drinking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Criminal Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult