Heavy drinkers impact one in five Aussies

Woman upset at man's drinking.| Newsreel
A new study has found more than 20 percent of Australians have been harmed by someone else's heavy drinking. | Photo: Viktoriia Hnatiuk (iStock)

A majority of Australians are exposed to heavy drinkers, with more than 20 percent harmed by people who drink excessively.

A new study has found a fifth of adult Australians reported harm from the excessive drinking of people they know, with negative impacts on family, friends, and colleagues.

The La Trobe University study showed that women experienced more harm than men when they lived with – or were related to – someone who drank in excess.

Lead researcher Dr Anne-Marie Laslett said almost two-thirds of survey participants reported having heavy drinkers in their lives and more than 22 per cent reported being negatively impacted.

Dr Laslett said six percent of respondents reported they had experienced alcohol-related harm from a household member and 15 percent from a family member they did not live with, while seven percent reported harm from a friend and 3 percent from a co-worker in the past year.

“Participants felt the burden of driving such friends and relatives around and caring for them and reported feeling let down due to them not living up to their roles, as well as feeling emotionally hurt or neglected,” she said.

Almost 15 percent of women, compared to almost 8 percent of men, reported being emotionally hurt or neglected with 11.5 percent of women saying they experienced serious arguments, compared to 7.2 percent of men.

“We also uncovered a range of more serious harm such as verbal abuse and family problems. Some of our participants revealed that they suffered physical or sexual harm, property damage, financial stress and threats from others’ drinking,” Dr Laslett said.

She said public health-oriented advocacy organisations such as the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education and the Alcohol and Drug Foundation had been advocating for harm prevention and policy change for some time.

“We have seen governments provide funding for awareness campaigns and programs to reduce fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and in relation to alcohol and driving, but other areas also need government funding if we are to see a reduction in the harm people face from other’s drinking habits.”

The report was published in the Addiction journal.