One in five people in England have been harmed by somebody else’s drinking in the past year, with some coerced into sex by their partners.
While people mostly complain of being kept awake due to other’s drinking, almost one in 20 have experienced aggression which led to them being physically threatened, hurt or pressurised into having sex.
The study, published in the online journal BMJ Open, is the biggest survey of its kind.
Researchers collected data from 4,874 adults across England who were asked about other people’s drinking, including frequency and harms caused by excessive alcohol, as well as their own alcohol intake.
The most commonly reported harm was being kept awake at night (8%) or feeling anxious/uncomfortable at a social occasion (nearly 7%).
Men (5.3%) were slightly more likely than women (4%) to experience violence or aggression.
But women were around twice as likely as men to say they had experienced emotional harm or neglect (just under 5% compared with just over 2%).
One in five (19%) people who were forced or pressurised into something sexual said this was at the hands of a stranger, but 23% said this was caused by the partner they lived with (rising to almost 40% when including partners who lived elsewhere).
The researchers, from the Risk Factors Intelligence Team at Public Health England, wrote: “The most prevalent harms could be considered insignificant, but even apparently minor harms such as sleep disruption can have an impact on health and quality of life, particularly if experienced persistently.
“Policies that focus on alcohol must take into consideration the impact of drinking on those other than the drinker.”
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “This important study makes clear the very real impact a person’s alcohol consumption can have on the people around them.
“While there is an awareness of the harms alcohol can cause an individual, the secondhand harms associated with alcohol are also prevalent in society and, in some cases, happening frequently.
“The survey highlights the scale and severity of the problem, including actual or threatened physical violence. Worryingly, nearly four in 10 incidents of violent crime involve alcohol.
“In many ways, people are experiencing harm linked to someone else’s drinking and we can’t accept this as the ‘norm’.
“The Government needs to take action and introduce a range of targeted, evidence-based measures, including minimum unit pricing, which would raise the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol products and would go some of the way to reducing the alcohol-related harms people are suffering.”
A spokesman for the Alcohol Information Partnership, which is funded by eight alcohol firms including Bacardi, Campari, Diageo and Moet Hennessy, said: “There is never any excuse for violence or anti-social behaviour and we wholeheartedly support targeted initiatives which address the impact of harmful drinking.
“However, the UK’s relationship with alcohol is changing – and that’s backed up by robust data.
“The vast majority of adults drink alcohol within the recommended Government guidelines and only a few days ago, a report published in the Lancet revealed that drinking levels in the UK have been falling over the past 30 years.”