There is a perception that alcohol-related harms are far more likely to affect people who themselves drink at risky levels. In dodgy laymen’s terms, you need to be in it to win it – with ‘winning’ defined as being punched in the face by a fellow drinker who you:
a) brushed too aggressively/seductively against while walking past;
b) looked at the wrong way; or
c) looked at.
However, the 2014 Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s (FARE) Annual Alcohol Poll: Attitudes and Behaviours demonstrates that this is patently untrue, with non-drinkers, occasional drinkers (less than one standard drink per week) and regular drinkers (10 or more standard drinks per week) being similarly affected someone else’s drinking.
According to the Poll, over one-third (34%) of non-drinkers have experienced alcohol-related violence, not hugely different to the 41% of regular drinkers (defined in the Poll as those consuming 10 standard drinks or more per week) who have experienced this. Two-thirds (66%) of non-drinkers have suffered in some way as a result of someone else’s drinking (e.g. property damage), which is only marginally lower than the 70% of drinkers on the other end of the spectrum who experience this.
The third-party effects of drinking need not involve personal or property damage to be harmful. It may involve feeling pressured to drink more than you normally would. Around one-third of drinkers have consumed alcohol because it was expected in a social situation, even though they hadn’t planned to. This applies similarly to occasional drinkers (37%) as well as regular drinkers (33%).
Third-party effects may also involve simply feeling unsafe walking around town on a weekend night. 64% of Australians consider the city or centre of town unsafe on a Saturday night, with alcohol overwhelmingly perceived as the contributing factor. In this instance, non-drinkers (71%) are more likely than heavier drinkers (59%) to consider it unsafe.
If these statistics only lead you to believe that non-drinkers are a bunch of shrill wowsers who will complain about anything, bear in mind that it’s still over half of the heavier drinkers who feel unsafe in the city or centre of town on a Saturday night. Perhaps Dutch courage will only get you so far.