Majority of people in Britain harmed by other people’s drinking

  • New report reveals impact of alcohol on other people’s safety
  • Alcohol’s harm to others costs the UK economy more than £15billion each year
  •  Research sheds light on neglected area of alcohol related harm

AlcoholA new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group and the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) has revealed more than half of Scots and three-quarters of people from North West England are harmed by another person’s drinking.

The study Alcohol's Harm to Others, released today, examines the extent to which consuming alcohol can impact on people other than the drinker.

The report combines a review of the evidence on alcohol’s harm to others and data from two surveys in which over 2,000 adults* were asked about the harms experienced from others’ alcohol consumption.

These include being harassed or insulted on the street by someone who has been drinking, feeling unsafe in public, being kept awake at night and being sexually harassed.

The main findings show that over the past 12 months:

  • 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 these people reported multiple types of harm
  • There is a link between age and rates of harm, with younger age groups (16-24 and 25-34 year-olds) reporting greater rates of harm than older age groups
  • One in five adults have been harassed or insulted on the street by someone who has been drinking (20 per cent Scotland; 23 per cent North West England)
  • 19 per cent of people in Scotland and 36 per cent of people in North West England had felt unsafe or threatened in public
  • 30 per cent of people in Scotland and almost half of those in North West England (49 per cent) reported being kept awake at night because of drunken noise
  • 15 per cent of people in North West England report that someone who had been drinking gave them unwanted sexual attention or behaved in a sexually inappropriate way towards them.

The report also reviews prior evidence on and includes government figures that estimate alcohol’s harm to others costs the UK economy more than £15bn each year. The report concludes that more must be done to raise awareness and address harm to others.

Lead author, Dr Lucy Gell from the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield said: “Our findings indicate that a large number of people in Scotland and North West England experience harm from other people’s drinking, and in many cases multiple harms.

“This is especially true of younger adults who were far more likely to report having experienced harm in the past 12 months compared with older people.

“We need to better record alcohol’s harm to others across the health and social services and provide support services for those experiencing harm from other people’s drinking.

“Our team is now working to provide evidence to national and local governments about which mix of policies could best help to reduce the social harms associated with alcohol use.”
Evidence from the report suggests a range of policies that could help to reduce alcohol’s harm to others, including:

  • Offering screening and brief advice to drinkers who are most at risk of causing harm to themselves and others
  • Better regulating the density of alcohol outlets and restricting their trading times
  • Raising the price of the cheapest alcohol (through taxation and minimum unit pricing)
  • Lowering the legal drink-drive limit and introducing random roadside breath testing

Katherine Brown, Director of IAS 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.”

Additional information

* Two questionnaires were analysed for this report; one funded and carried out by Our Life and DrinkWise which surveyed 1,020 respondents aged 18 years and older living in the North West of England and the other funded by Alcohol Focus Scotland which surveyed 1,007 respondents aged 16 years and older living in Scotland.
Alcohol's Harm to Others was published by the Institute of Alcohol Studies in partnership with the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield.

The report can be read/downloaded in full here:

The watch an accompanying video to the report please visit:

The School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)
Formed in 1992, ScHARR is one of the largest and most dynamic Schools of health research within the UK. The School is based in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health at the University of Sheffield, employs over 300 members of staff and has access to some of the best research and teaching facilities in the UK.

The University of Sheffield
With almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.
A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.
In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.
Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

About the Institute of Alcohol Studies
The core aim of the Institute is to serve the public interest on public policy issues linked to alcohol, by advocating for the use of scientific evidence in policy-making to reduce alcohol-related harm. The IAS is a company limited by guarantee, No 05661538 and registered charity, No 1112671.
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For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859