Journal article

From eye rolls to punches: experiences of harm from others’ drinking among risky-drinking adolescents across Australia

Youth Alcohol Alcohol harms Australia


Objectives: Exploration of experience of harms due to another person’s drinking within a demographic particularly vulnerable to these consequences.

Importance of study: Largest sampling of young Australian risky drinkers, who are underrepresented in general population surveys. The range of harms due to others’ drinking reported here is more comprehensive than documented elsewhere.

Study type: Cross-sectional self-report survey.

Methods: Participants were 14–19 years old and screened as being within the riskiest-drinking 25% for their age cohort. The convenience sample of 3465 was recruited primarily by social media advertising. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in all eight Australian capital cities (n = 596), supplemented by online surveys (n = 2869). Past 12-month experience of 13 harms due to others’ drinking was assessed by age, gender and perpetrator.

Results: Females were more likely to experience seven harms, mainly characterised by fear and harassment, including being harassed or bothered at a party or some other private setting (41% vs 34% of males, p < 0.001), being given unwanted sexual attention (71% vs 47%, p < 0.001) and being put in fear (33% vs 20%, p < 0.001). Males were more likely to experience three harms, characterised by aggression: being yelled at, criticised or verbally abused (38% vs 33% of females, p = 0.002), being pushed or shoved (42% vs 28%, p < 0.001) and being physically hurt (17% vs 11%, p < 0.001). Teenagers of a legal alcoholpurchase age were more likely to experience harassment in public settings (49% vs 32–34%, p < 0.001) and unwanted sexual attention (66% vs 51–59%, p < 0.001) compared with younger teenagers. Seven of the harms studied were more likely (p < 0.01) to be perpetrated by people the respondents knew, and fve (those associated with fear and aggression) were more likely to be perpetrated by strangers.

Conclusion: Young people who are risky drinkers commonly experience multiple harms from others’ drinking. Many of these alcohol harms to others are reported here for the frst time, as previous studies of adolescent drinking have focused almost exclusively on the harms young people have experienced from their own drinking. This refocusing on the harms caused by the drinking of others may prompt greater community concern and concomitant calls for better alcohol regulation.

Key messages:

  • Young people and risky drinkers are susceptible to experiencing alcohol’s harms to others (AHTO)
  • Women report more fear and harassment-based AHTO than men, while males report more aggressive AHTO
  • Teenagers of a legal alcohol-purchase age experience more AHTO such as harassment in public settings and unwanted sexual attention
  • Adverse effects such as verbal or physical abuse are more commonly perpetrated by individuals known to victims, while fear-based harms are more commonly attributed to strangers
Publication Details
License type:
Access Rights Type:
Publication place: