Being around heavy drinkers may be bad for health

Mon Feb 7, 2011 2:17am EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If you have a heavy drinker in your life, your own health and well-being could suffer as a result, according to a New Zealand study.

The survey of more than 3,000 people, reported in "Addiction," showed that people with a family member, friend or colleague who drank heavily generally gave lower ratings to their own health and well-being.

Compared to people who didn't have heavy drinkers in their lives, they also did less well on standard measures of general health -- such as chronic pain, anxiety and depression symptoms -- and had lower overall satisfaction with life.

The average affect was similar to what's been seen in studies of people caring for somebody with a disability, said lead researcher Sally Casswell, at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand.

"There is a relationship between exposure to heavy drinkers and reduced personal well-being and poorer health status in this cross-sectional general population sample," she wrote.

"Exposure to heavy drinkers may have negative impacts for others."

Casswell acknowledged, however, that the findings do not prove that being around a heavy drinker was the root of study participants' problems, noting that the study is just "a snapshot at one point in time."

"So...some other explanation is possible," she told Reuters Health by e-mail, adding that people with poorer well-being may be more likely to attract heavy drinkers into their lives.

In addition, people who know heavy drinkers might drink heavily themselves, tend to be less educated or have lower incomes. But none of these explained the findings.   Continued...