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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2019 May;80(3):273-281.

Alcohol's Secondhand Harms in the United States: New Data on Prevalence and Risk Factors.

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Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, Emeryville, California.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, University of North Dakota, School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Grand Forks, North Dakota.



This study examined a range of indicators of alcohol's harm to others (AHTO) among U.S. adults and assessed sociodemographic and alcohol-related risk factors for AHTO.


The data came from 8,750 adult men and women in two parallel 2015 U.S. national surveys conducted in English and Spanish. Both surveys used computer-assisted telephone interviews and two-stage, stratified, list-assisted, random samples of adults ages 18 and older.


One in five adults experienced at least one of ten 12-month harms because of someone else's drinking. The prevalence of specific harm types and characteristics differed by gender. Women were more likely to report harm due to drinking by a spouse/partner or family member, whereas men were more likely to report harm due to a stranger's drinking. Being female also predicted family/financial harms. Younger age increased risk for all AHTO types, except physical aggression. Being of Black/other ethnicity, being separated/widowed/divorced, and having a college education without a degree each predicted physical aggression harm. The harmed individual's own heavy drinking and having a heavy drinker in the household increased risk for all AHTO types. The risk for physical aggression due to someone else's drinking was particularly elevated for heavy drinking women.


Secondhand effects of alcohol in the United States are substantial and affected by sociodemographics, the harmed individual's own drinking, and the presence of a heavy drinker in the household. Broad-based and targeted public health measures that consider AHTO risk factors are needed to reduce alcohol's secondhand harms.

[Available on 2020-05-01]

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