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How Heavy Drinking Affects Loved Ones

There are many consequences of heavy drinking, including both mental and physiological aspects of well-being. Heavy drinkers put themselves at a higher risk for heart disease and some types of cancer. They also may be at a higher risk for mental disorders such as depression. In addition, quality of life is affected in areas such as employment and social networks.

A new study shows that there may be implications for the loved ones of those who drink heavily. The study, authored by Michael Livingston, Claire Wilkinson, and Anne-Marie Laslett, shows that drinking in excess not only has consequences for the drinker, but for their inner circle as well.

Although the consequences for heavy drinkers have been well documented and examined, the effects on other people around the heavy drinker have been largely left unexplored. The study by Livingston and colleagues seeks to assess the degree to which relationships with a heavy drinker can affect health and well-being.

The researchers conducted random telephone surveys with 2,649 Australians, which resulted in data suitable for analysis for 2,422 of those surveys. The participants were asked questions about the people in their lives who were heavy drinkers or who on occasion drank excessively.

The participants were also assessed for their well-being and health using the Personal Wellbeing Index and the EuroQol Group 5 Dimension Self-Report Questionnaire score. There were also questions to ascertain sociodemographic factors that may affect the various aspects of well-being and health among the participants.

The researchers used multivariate regression models to examine the association of living with a heavy drinker or knowing heavy drinkers with health and well-being once socioeconomic and demographic factors, along with the participants own drinking behaviors were statistically controlled.

The results of the study showed that there were negative effects on the loved ones of heavy drinkers. There were negative consequences affecting both health and well-being related to the number of heavy drinkers identified outside the participant’s household. Heavy drinkers within the household were negatively related to health but not well-being.

The results of the study show that there are serious consequences for not only the person who participates in heavy drinking behavior, but also for the people in their lives. The findings indicate that additional education must emphasize the impact that heavy drinking has on the individual’s inner circle.

Family and friends of a heavy drinker should seek out support as they try to cope with the impact that the drinking has on their lives. Attending a support group or talking with a counselor may help them recognize where another person’s alcohol use is affecting their well-being and health and learn to address it.

Posted on September 29th, 2010

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