How can drinking affect the people around you?

Drinking can affect many aspects of your life, and the lives of others, like your family and work colleagues. Here are the main factors to consider.

Adults chatting in a busy bar

If you choose to drink alcohol, how it affects your body, as well as your physical and mental health, depends to a large extent on how frequently you drink and in what quantities. But your drinking can also affect other people, whether in your immediate family and social circles or acquaintances and those you interact with. It’s important to remember that if you choose to drink, drinking moderately and responsibly is always the best option – not only for your own sake, but also for others.

Drinking can be a ‘social lubricant’, but only in moderation

Drinking often accompanies social occasions. Moderate drinking can facilitate conversation, making you more outgoing and more relaxed as you engage with other people (1). But drinking should never be used to give you the courage to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do.

If your drinking becomes heavy, it can negatively affect your interaction with other people. As some people drink more, they become inebriated and potentially loud and boisterous. And as they’re less inhibited (2, 3), they may ignore boundaries and make those around them uncomfortable or even unsafe.

Excessive drinking can result in aggressive behaviour

Heavy drinking has been linked with some violent behaviours and can escalate confrontations (3). Because large amounts of alcohol impair your coordination and reaction (4), you may be more likely to be injured or to hurt someone else. These injuries may also be more severe than when you’re sober as you may not be able to react in time to protect yourself.

Drinking and driving do not mix

The more you drink, the more alcohol reduces your ability to concentrate, your reaction time and the judgements you make (5). As a result, people who drink are more likely to be involved in a road traffic crash, either as drivers or as pedestrians (6).

Two friends waiting for a train at a station

To help prevent drinking and driving, countries around the world set maximum levels for how much you can legally drink and still drive (7), which is measured as blood alcohol content (BAC). Setting these limits is intended to reduce the risk to you and also to other people, whether they’re passengers in your car, pedestrians on the road, or people in other vehicles who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you’re drinking, it’s always best not to drive a car, motorcycle or bicycle – find another form of transport or designate a sober driver.

Domestic violence and abuse have been linked with heavy drinking and mental health issues

The link between drinking and violence is complex (8, 9), but heavy drinking, often associated with mental health issues (10), has been linked with domestic violence (11, 12). This includes abuse of a spouse or partner, child abuse and neglect, and the abuse of elderly family members. If you feel unsafe or are experiencing violent behaviour, you should seek help from a trusted person – support and shelter are also available.

Alcohol abuse affects both drinkers and those around them

Alcohol abuse and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) are linked with mental health problems (13, 14) and have a serious and painful effect on individuals suffering from them. But, like any mental health issue, AUD and excessive drinking also take a toll on the person’s family members and loved ones.

For someone abusing alcohol or with an AUD, relationships with other people may deteriorate. And drinking heavily can be disruptive to work performance and the ability to execute everyday tasks, affecting productivity and increasing the burden on other people (15).

Are you concerned about the effects of drinking on your body?