While there is a longer history of concern about alcohol’s harm to others, researchers’ interest has intensified in the last few years. The background of variation in concern over time in different societies is outlined. Three main traditions of research have emerged: population survey studies of such harm from the perspective of the ‘other’; analysis of register or case-record data which includes information on the involvement of another’s drinking in the case; and qualitative studies of interactions and experiences involved in particular harms from others’ drinking. In the course of the new spate of studies, many conceptual and methodological issues have arisen, some of which are considered in the paper. The diverse types of harms which have been studied are discussed. The social and personal nature of many of the harms means they do not fit easily into a disability or costing model, raising questions about how they might best be counted and aggregated. Harm from others’ drinking is inherently interactional, and subject to varying definitions of what counts as harm. The attribution to drinking, in the usual situation of conditional causation, is also subject to variation, with moral politics potentially coming into play. For measurement and comparison, account needs to be taken of cultural and individual variations in perceptions and thresholds of what counts as a harm, and attribution to alcohol. The view from the windows of a population survey and of a response agency case register are often starkly different, and research is needed, as an input and spur to policy initiatives, on what influences this difference and whether and how the views might be reconciled.
Anne-Marie Laslett, Orratai Waleewong, Isidore Obot, Vivek Benegal, Siri Hettige, Ramon Florenzano, Hoang Thi My Hanh, Vu Thi Minh Hanh, Girish N Rao and Robin Room
AIMS - As part of the WHO Harm from others’ drinking project, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Chile, Nigeria and Vietnam undertook scoping studies to examine: which service agencies in low and middle income countries responded to people affected by others’ drinking; how commonly key informants from these agencies indicated alcohol was part of the problems they managed; and whether any routine reporting systems collected information on alcohol’s harm to others (AHTO) and the types and examples of harms experienced across the six countries. METHODS - Researchers synthetised within country peer-review literature, reports, news and agency website information. Additionally, researchers interviewed key informants to investigate current structures, functions and practices of service agencies, and in particular their recording practices surrounding cases involving others’ drinking. RESULTS - 111 key informants agreed to participate from 91 purposively selected agencies from health, social protection, justice and police, and ‘other’ sectors. National and provincial level data, as well as state-run and civil society agency data were collected. Diverse service response systems managed AHTO in the different countries. A large range in the percentage of all cases attributed to AHTO was identified. Case story examples from each country illustrate the different responses to, and the nature of, many severe problems experienced because of others’ drinking. CONCLUSIONS - AHTO was a major issue for service systems in LMIC, and significantly contributed to their workload, yet, very few recording systems routinely collected AHTO data. Recommendations are outlined to improve AHTO data collection across multiple sectors and enable LMIC to better identify and respond to AHTO.