Alcohol-related collateral harm in the family and social circle: The unseen dimension of alcohol-related harm?

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019


The study contends that there is a dimension within the totality of alcohol-related harm that remains largely unseen; the harm caused to people around the drinker, Alcohol-Related Collateral Harm (ARCH).  This thesis is pursued through an examination of the extent to which young adults’ health and wellbeing are affected by others who misuse alcohol in their family and social circle and through consideration of the significance of the findings as a neglected Public Health issue.



Phase 1: An electronic survey collected quantitative and qualitative data on participants’ knowledge and behaviours around alcohol, smoking, diet and exercise to assess their relative health and wellbeing and to appraise their experiences of ARCH.

Phase 2:  A purposive sample of survey participants was identified for semi-structured interviews to follow up experiences of ARCH.  Thematic analysis of this ongoing qualitative data collection will classify the experiences reported, explore their relevance and assess their wider significance.



A sample of 450 university and sixth-form college students aged 16-24 was recruited for the survey. Interviews with up to 50 of these are ongoing.


Findings and conclusions: Phase 1

•Almost half (47%) of survey participants reported having personal experience of ARCH.

•Participants’ parents’ drinking every day was predictive of reporting a personal experience of ARCH.

•Participants reported an extensive range of physical and psychological experiences of ARCH, from the relatively trivial to the impact of the alcohol-related death of a family member.

•Experiences of ARCH reported in Phase 1 proved susceptible to coding and categorisation for subsequent incorporation into the ongoing thematic analysis of the Phase 2 data.


Director of studies: Prof David Foxcroft, Professor of Community Psychology & Public Health, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University; Second supervisor: Dr Jane Appleton, Reader in Primary and Community Care, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University


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Briony Enser