Home > Social disparities in alcohol's harm to others: evidence from 32 European countries.

Kilian, Carolin and Manthey, Jakob and Braddick, Fleur and López-Pelayo, Hugo and Rehm, Jürgen (2023) Social disparities in alcohol's harm to others: evidence from 32 European countries. International Journal of Drug Policy, 118, 104079. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2023.104079.

BACKGROUND: Alcohol use can cause harm not only to the person who consumes it but also to others. Prior research has found that these alcohol-attributable harms to others differ across socioeconomic groups, though several findings have been contradictory. The aim of this contribution was to study the role of individual-level and population-level income inequalities in alcohol's harm to others among women and men.

METHODS: Logistic regression analysis of cross-sectional survey data from 2021, covering 39,629 respondents from 32 European countries. Harms from others' drinking were defined as experiences of physical harm, involvement in a serious argument, or involvement in a traffic accident, due to another person's drinking, within the past year. We examined the association of individual-level income and country-specific income inequality (Gini index) with harms from a known person's or a stranger's drinking, adjusting for the respondent's age, daily drinking levels, and at least monthly risky single-occasion drinking.

RESULTS: At the individual level, people with lower incomes had 21% to 47% increased odds of reporting harms from a known person's drinking (women and men) or stranger's drinking (men only) than their same-gender counterparts in the highest income quintile. At the national level, countries with higher income inequality showed increased risks of harms from a known person's drinking among women, while among men the risk of harm from strangers' drinking decreased with higher income inequality. These associations with income inequality were observed among respondents from all but the lowest income groups.

CONCLUSION: Alcohol can cause harm to others, with women and people with low incomes being disproportionally exposed to these harms. Alcohol control policies targeting high consumption levels, especially among men, as well as upstream policies to reduce inequalities, are needed to lower the health burden of alcohol beyond those who consume it.

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