Most Scots ‘harmed by drinking of other people’
Research from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) reveals that one in five adults has been harassed or insulted in the street by someone who had been drinking, while even more had felt unsafe or threatened in a public place.
Many also reported receiving unwanted sexual attention or experiencing family or marriage problems because of alcohol abuse.
The report, based on the experiences of more than 2,000 people from Scotland and north-west England, asked participants about the harm experienced from others’ alcohol consumption in the past year.
Nearly a third – 30 per cent – in Scotland and almost half of those in the north-west England – 49 per cent – reported being kept awake at night because of drunken noise while one in 20 – six per cent – in Scotland said drinking had caused family or marriage problems.
In total, 51 per cent of people in Scotland and 78 per cent of people in north-west England had experienced harm from another person’s drinking, most of them reporting multiple types of issues.
The report also found a link between age and rates of harm, with younger age groups reporting greater harm than older ones.
Harm caused by alcohol can vary from a traffic accident caused by a drink-driver, to a child missing school because their parent is drunk, or a family suffering financial problems because too much money is spent on alcohol, the IAS said.
The report, which was produced in collaboration with the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, called for a range of measures including stricter rules on how many licensed premises can be allowed in one area and increasing the price of the cheapest alcohol.
It also reviewed prior evidence on the issue, finding few studies which quantify the costs of harm to people other than the drinker, suggesting that the cost of alcohol consumption is likely underestimated.
In the UK, the cost of alcohol’s harm to others was estimated in 2004 to be up to £15.4 billion, including £1.4bn to £1.7bn to the health service, up to £7.3bn on crime and public disorder costs, and up to £6.4bn in workplace-related costs.
It added that there are many other costs to family and social networks which cannot be quantified using available data, for example the cost to children affected by parental alcohol problems.
IAS director Katherine Brown said: “This report is important because it shows that the harms caused by alcohol extend far beyond individual drinkers, often affecting many people through no choice of their own.
“Alcohol harm is everybody’s business – as taxpayers we are all paying the price. We hope this government will look to the evidence of what works and take action, both to ease the heavy financial burden on our health, social care and police services, and to make our communities safer.”