It’s no secret that university life often includes alcohol use, which can sometimes cause harm. Yet harm can also extend beyond the drinker, such as “secondhand harm” that is caused by intoxicated people: accidents or domestic, physical, or sexual violence; interrupted sleep or property destruction; and arguments, problems with relationships, or financial problems. Prior research suggests that more than 70 percent of college undergraduates have experienced harm from other students’ drinking. This study examined the prevalence and types of secondhand harm among Canadian undergraduates, and whether certain personality risks for alcohol use disorder — impulsivity, sensation seeking, hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity — can predict secondhand-harm exposure.
Researchers administered an online survey to 1,537 first-year Canadian undergraduates (two-thirds of whom were women) during 2015. Problematic alcohol use was measured by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and personality was measured by the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale (SURPS). The 11 secondhand-harm choices given to students ranged from “interrupted your studies” to “sexually harassed/insulted you.”