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Alcohol's Harm to Others (AH2O)


Joe Barry, Ann Hope, Suzanne Costello, Sean Byrne


HSE, Department of Health, Department of Justice

What we set out to do

There has been growing public debate about the impact of alcohol consumption and the health and social harms caused to the Irish population by alcohol consumption. In 2012 the Dept. of Health published a National Alcohol Strategy and subsequently many items from the strategy formed the basis of the Public Health((Alcohol ) Bill which was published in 2015.It was clear from public debate that fresh evidence would be required to help passage of the Bill. The HSE and the Departments of Health and Justice were approached to fund a study to determine the extent of harms to individuals and families from other persons' drinking.

What did we do

Alcohol's Harm to Others (AH2O) is a relatively new approach to gathering data on alcohol harms. The previous methodologies focused exclusively on harm to the drinker but it is now recognised that AH2O changes the parameters of debate and that the libertarian argument for not interfering in the rights of drinkers to harm themselves is not an appropriate public health response. Consequently a quantitative methodology was employed in a probability sample of 2005 adults in Ireland to quantify the extent of AH2O. The questionnaire used, drafted with the support of the World Health Organisation, is being employed in a number of other countries.

What did we find

  • I in 2 people reported harm from strangers' drinking
    • Harassed on street
    • Kept awake at night,
    • Felt unsafe in public places
  • 2 in 5 reported harm from a drinker known to them
    • Harassed in a private setting
    • Family problems
    • Felt threatened at home
  • 1 in 6 carers reported harm to children from others' drinking
    • Child verbally abused
    • Child witness to serious violence at home
  • 1 in 7 reported harm from co-worker's drinking
    • Own productivity at work was reduced
    • Had to cover for co-worker
    • Had to work extra hours

Estimated total financial burden; 862.75 million Euro.

Caring duties 456 million Euro
Out of pocket expenses 130 million Euro
Seeking help from law enforcement and health services 154 million Euro
Workplace costs 123 million Euro.

AAA costs

Outcomes and Impact

Key findings are that (i) women are more at risk of alcohol domestic problems and caring duties; (ii) men carry the burden in the workplace and (iii) children in low income households are more at risk. The findings from this study have been used to inform public debate and also an extensive HSE radio and print campaign in 2018. The high profile adverts include such examples as the real family consequences of hung-over parents and the hidden harms of alcohol abuse.

AAA Infographic stating that 2 in 5 people with harmful drinkers in their life reported alcohol-related domestic problems

media coverage

affected by someone else drinking