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

Ms Briony Enser

Briony Enser is in the third year of her PhD Alcohol-Related Collateral Harm: The unseen dimension? Young adults’ experience in their family & social circle.  Before commencing her PhD, she worked for the Government at the Department of Health HQ in London for some twenty years, latterly as a Public Health Principal in Public Health.  She prepared evidence for The Government’s Alcohol Strategy (HO 2012), analysed the findings from the UK alcohol labelling consultation and wrote the Consultation Report (DH 2011).  She prepared the DH input to the National Audit Office report Reducing Alcohol Harm (NAO 2008), the Health Select Committee report and the Government Response (HOC 2010).  She also worked on the policy to introduce smoke-free public places and with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) on effective interventions for alcohol misuse and on GP Quality & Outcomes Framework (QOF) incentives, including the Adult Obesity Indicator. 

Conference presentations

Talks:  Kettil Bruun Society Thematic Meeting Conference: Alcohol’s harm to others, perceptions, policies, approaches. Helsinki, 14-17 September 2015.  PsyPAG, 30th Annual Postgraduate Student Conference, Glasgow University, 22-24 July 2015.

Posters:  European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) conference Palma Majorca, 16-18 October 2014.   Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) Annual Symposium York, 6 - 7 November 2014.  Public Health Symposium, Liverpool John Moore’s University 1 April 2015.



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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