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The Untold Story Of The Harms Caused By Other People’s Drinking

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The first dedicated Irish survey on alcohol’s harm to others by the HSE has found one in six carers (16%) reported that children, for whom they had parental responsibility, experienced harm because of someone else’s drinking.

“The Untold Story: Harms Experienced in the Irish Population due to Others’ Drinking” brings to light how other people’s drinking can affect a wide range of relationships in a person’s life – family and friends, children, work colleagues and strangers.

Key findings from the report:

  • One in six carers (16%) reported that children, for whom they had parental responsibility, experienced harm because of someone else’s drinking.
  • One in every two people (51%) reported experiencing harm due to strangers’ drinking in the past 12 months.
  • Two in every five people (44%) reported experiencing negative consequences due to the drinking of people they know.
  • Three in every five people (61%) reported having a known heavy drinker in their life.
  • One in seven workers (14%) reported work-related problems due to co-workers’ drinking.

Notable harms caused by other’ drinking throughout the report include: feeling unsafe, being harassed or insulted verbally, physical harassment, stress, having less money for household expenses, sleep disturbances, being a passenger with a drunk driver, ruined belongings and having to leave home due for safety.

Children are particularly vulnerable to harm from other people’s drinking, be it within the family, among family members or in the wider community in which they live.

Prof Robin Room, Professor of Alcohol Policy Research at University of Melbourne, noted the importance of this report to give a full picture of the harms associated with alcohol.

“For many years, the focus in discussing harms from drinking was on harms suffered by the drinker. Indeed, these harms are widespread and often severe. However, what has been missing from the picture is the burden that occasional or regular heavy drinking imposes directly on others at the interpersonal level,” said Prof Room.

“Others around the drinker, whatever their relationship with the drinker, are likely to be affected, often adversely, by changes in thinking, demeanour and behaviour which result from drinking,” he added.

One of the authors of the report, Dr Ann Hope, notes the significant evidence presented:

“Given that 3 in 5 people reported a known heavy drinker in their life, suggests the risk of harm from others’ drinking is widespread in Irish society, with some of it hidden.

“The fear to personal safety due to strangers’ drinking especially in public spaces can undermine a sense of community well-being and can be felt by both drinkers and non-drinker alike.”

Another of the authors of the report, Prof Joe Barry, hopes the findings will inform national policy around alcohol in Ireland.

“This report provides solid evidence that harms to others from drinking are at least as widespread and of comparable magnitude to the harms to drinkers themselves,” Prof Barry concluded.

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