Alcohol-Related Collateral Harm: The unseen dimension? Young adults’ experience in their family & social circle

First published: 30/03/2019 | Last updated: May 20th, 2019

Alcohol-Related Collateral Harm: The unseen dimension? Young adults’ experience in their family & social circle

Any historical panorama of alcohol misuse reveals that drinkers harm others besides themselves.  Yet, whilst alcohol-related harms to drinkers are widely recognised, the dimension of harm to others, Alcohol-Related Collateral harm (ARC harm) remains largely unseen and is a neglected social and epidemiological issue.

This study examines the phenomenon of ARC harm from the young adults’ perspective.  It assesses the extent to which their health and wellbeing are affected by others who misuse alcohol in their family and social circle.  Phase 1 used an electronic survey to collect quantitative and qualitative data from 450 university and college students aged 16-24.  Participants’ experiences of ARC harm were recorded and analysed statistically in the context of their wider public health behaviours.  Phase 2 interviews with a purposive sample of participants who had experienced ARC harms provided complementary data to develop and expand upon the survey findings.  Participants ‘ experiences of ARC harms were categorised using thematic analysis to establish the significance of ARC harms in their lives, to improve understanding of the totality of alcohol-related harm and to inform policy.

Participants experienced an extensive array of ARC harms from nuisance to death.  Physical examples ranged from cuts and bruises to coma. Psychological examples included peer pressure, exclusion, shame, undue responsibility, fear, stress, loss and bereavement.  Alcohol consumption per se was not predictive of ARC harms, nor was there a significant difference between heavier drinkers or moderate drinkers experiencing ARC harms.  However, participants’ parents’ drinking every day was predictive of experience of ARC harms.

Key words:  Alcohol, collateral harm, young adults


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Briony Enser



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