According to a study published in the scientific Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, one in five adults (about 53 million people) in the United States are affected by passive alcoholism, making it a ‘public health concern’ according to researchers. Katherine Karriker-Jaffe, the author of the study and senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute in Emeryville (United States), told CNN:
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One thing to realise with the figure of one in five is that it is limited to one year. So there are probably more people who have been affected by the consumption of alcoholic beverages in their surroundings.
What is passive alcoholism?
It is the fact of experiencing disorders related to the drunkenness of another person around him or her, such as being with a drunk driver or being harassed or threatened by a drunk person.
How was the study carried out?
The researchers analysed the responses of 8,750 adults during a survey conducted in 2015 by the National Alcohol Survey (an alcohol research group) and the National Alcohol's Harm to Others Survey (a collaborative alcohol research group).
Participants answered questions, including questions about problems related to people around them who had been drinking over a one-year period. The problems could be related to a car accident, physical violence, marital problems, damage to the house or financial problems.
Differences between men and women
The scientists concluded that 21% of women and 23% of men had experienced at least one negative impact. The most common were threats or harassment. Katherine Karriker-Jaffe explains:
For women, the most common disorders are harassment, family and marital problems and financial problems due to someone else's alcohol use. Then come car accidents—it can mean being with an alcoholic driver in the car or getting hit by a car driven by a drunk person.
For men, the results are slightly different: after harassment, the second most common problem is related to drinking and driving, followed by damage to private property and, finally, vandalism related to another person under the influence.
The researchers also found that people under 25 years of age were the most likely to experience a greater variety of disorders related to another person's state of intoxication. In addition, according to the scientists, women are more likely to file a complaint when it concerns a husband or family member, while men would be more likely to do so when it concerns a stranger.