Social Effects

Alcohol has several negative social effects

Drunk Driving

Alcohol is involved in about 40% of the fatal car crashes in the U.S.1 This means alcohol was responsible for 16,919 deaths in the U.S. in 2004.2. Although many states consider a driver legally intoxicated when the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reaches 0.10%, driving skills are affected at levels as low as 0.03-0.05%. It is thus not surprising to see so many alcohol related accidents.

Drunk driving statistics3

  • In 2006, there were 13,470 fatalities in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver (BAC of .08 or higher) – 32 percent of total traffic fatalities for the year. While - 16,005 people were killed in the United States in alcohol-related* motor vehicle traffic crashes (BAC of .01 or higher).
  • In 2006, 1,794 children age 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Of those 1,794 fatalities, 306 (17%) occurred in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Children riding in vehicles with drivers who had a BAC level of .08 or higher accounted for half (153) of these deaths.
  • The 13,470 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2006 were almost the same as compared to 13,451 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities reported in 1996. Ten years of progress.
  • The 13,470 fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during 2006 represent an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 39 minutes.
  • Drivers with a BAC level of .08 or higher involved in fatal crashes were eight times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) than were drivers with no alcohol (8% and 1%, respectively).
  • In 2006, more than 8,200 (55%) of the drivers involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking had a BAC of .15 or greater.


Alcohol use is related to at least one-half of all crime, violence, rapes, sexual activity, poor school performance, assaults, accidents and other problems among underage populations in America.4

Violent Crime

  • 95% of violent crime on college campuses is alcohol related.5


  • 90% of reported campus rapes involve alcohol use by the assailant, the victim, or both.6
  • Colleges and universities with higher rates of binge drinking also have more rapes. In addition, nearly 3/4s of rape victims reported being intoxicated at the time of the attack. Almost one in 20 (4.7%) of women reported being raped, and 72 % of the victims reported being intoxicated while being raped.7

Chile Abuse

  • According to research estimates, each year more than 1 million children in the United States experience some form of abuse or neglect (Widom 1993). Child abuse is one of the many types of violence associated with alcohol use and abuse, either as a consequence or as a causative factor. For example, parental alcohol abuse may contribute to the abusive treatment of children. Furthermore, people who have been abused as children may be at increased risk for developing alcohol abuse as adults.8

Spousal Abuse

  • Heavy drinkers (15 to 20 drinks per week) and moderate drinkers (eight to 14 drinks per week) were also three times as likely to report beating their partner while intoxicated, compared to men consuming less than one drink per week. Even light drinking — one to seven drinks per week — doubled the rate of abuse while intoxicated.9
  • Domestic violence is a significant and preventable cause of injury to women. The majority of cases involve violence perpetrated by a male partner, and heavy drinking has also been implicated as a risk factor. Findings indicate that soldiers who drink heavily are more likely to abuse their spouses both when they are and when they are not drinking alcohol; heavy drinking is also associated with subsequent episodes of spouse abuse even when drinking habits are measured years prior to the event.10

Youth Crime

  • Criminal and/or disorderly behavior during or after drinking was again more prevalent among young adult binge drinkers (with the exception of theft) - 63% of all young adult binge drinkers admitted to such behavior during or after drinking, compared with 34% of other young regular drinkers. Young male binge drinkers were much more likely to get into a fight then young females (25% vs. 12%). Young male binge drinkers were much more likely to get into a fight (25% vs. 12%) and damage something (14% vs. 4%) during or after drinking than young female binge drinkers.11

Cost of Crime

  • The annual costs of crimes that can be attributed to the use of alcohol are $83 billion (interestingly illegal drugs cause only $37 billion).12


  • Alcohol problems are related to increased rates of poor communication, violence, and feelings of distress. These problems raise the risk of divorce. Some evidence shows that divorced or separated individuals are 3 times more likely to be alcoholic or have an alcohol problem than married individuals. Couples in which both spouses have drinking problems have significantly higher divorce rates than do couples who don’t have drinking problems.13

Lost Productivity

  • Productivity losses attributed to alcohol were estimated at $119 billion for 1995, and NIAAA cites a number of organization factors that contribute to problem drinking in the workplace.14
  • In other countries the problem is the same. New research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that despite fourteen million working days being lost each year due to alcohol related problems, costing British industry an estimated £2 billion, only four out of ten employers believe that alcohol and drug misuse causes significant employee absence and lost productivity in the workplace.15
  • Productivity also drops in government employees16 effectively costing the public millions in lost tax revenue.

Other monetary costs

One has to be careful with statistics — here is a government figure for the aggregate cost: Alcohol and drug abuse cost society an estimated $86.1 billion from direct costs and losses in productivity related to crime, social welfare expenditures, motor vehicle crashes, and fire destruction. Drug abuse is estimated to have cost $57.5 billion of these non-health-related costs, and alcohol abuse is estimated to have cost another $28.7 billion.17

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