A New Zealand study released Sept. 3 shows statistical increases in the risks of violence and other community and personal issues associated with drinking. The University of Otago, Christchurch, researchers looked specifically at a group of adults between 21-30 years old – over the legal drinking age.
Lead author of the study, Joe Boden, says much attention has been paid to the effects of problematic teen drinking but little on those over the drinking age. "This study shows this group is still very much at risk, despite perceptions their drinking may be tapering off."
The researchers divided the results between those who met the clinical definition of alcochol abuse and those with the disease of alcoholism (read the distinction in this examiner article). Family background or previous substance abuse issues were factored out to hone in on the precise role alcohol plays.
Those who have some problem with alcohol abuse are:
• Three times more likely to commit a violent crime.
• Almost twice as likely to have been the victim of a violent crime.
• Twice as likely to commit property crime.
• Twice as likely to commit family violence.
• Almost twice as likely as those with no problem to have a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
• Most three times more likely to contemplate suicide.
The study shows those meeting the criteria for alcoholism are:
• Almost nine times more likely than those with no alcohol problems to inflict physical violence on others.
• Almost three times more likely to be the victims of violence.
• Three times more likely to commit property crimes such as burglary, car theft or vandalism.
• Almost 11 times more likely to have 10 or more sexual partners
• Twice as likely to have an STD.
• Almost seven times more likely to contemplate suicide.
The social and criminal justice conclusion: The researchers suggest that if people in their 20s did not misuse alcohol, violent crime committed by that age group would drop by almost half. "It seems that young people don't need to misuse alcohol for a long time before they experience some serious negative outcomes, and often multiple serious outcomes,'' Boden says. "There could be great benefits to society in addressing alcohol misuse in those aged in their 20's."
Other medical or psychological consequences of alcohol misuse were not quantified by this study.