One in four children exposed to family alcohol abuse or alcoholism

December 29, 1999

A study in the January 2000 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (Volume 90, Number 1) reports that approximately one in four U.S. children (19 million children or 28.6 percent of children 0-17 years) is exposed at some time before age 18 to familial alcohol dependence (alcoholism), alcohol abuse, or both.

"The design and methods of today¹s report provide the most precise estimate to date of children affected by family alcohol problems," said Enoch Gordis, M.D., Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Given the prevalence of alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the U.S. adult population, however, the number of exposed children shocks but regrettably does not surprise."

Estimated past-year and lifetime prevalence of adult alcohol use disorders (alcohol abuse and alcoholism) and children exposed to those disorders were based on the 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES), a survey of 42,862 respondents conducted in conjunction with the 1992 census. Researchers used the Alcohol Use Disorders and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule (AUDADIS) to assess the presence of alcohol dependence (characterized by impaired control over drinking, tolerance, withdrawal syndrome when alcohol is removed, neglect of normal activities for drinking, and continued drinking despite recurrent related physical or psychological problems) and alcohol abuse (characterized by clinically significant impairment or distress that does not entail physical dependence) according to standard diagnostic criteria. NIAAA earlier reported (see "NIAAA Releases New Estimates of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence," February 1995) that 7.1 percent of American adults (14 million persons aged 18 and older) met standard diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse during 1992. Approximately 18.2 percent of adults were estimated to experience an episode of alcohol abuse or dependence at some time during their lives.

For today's report, Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., Ph.D., Division of Biometry and Epidemiology, NIAAA, determined from the 1992 NLAES data that approximately 15 percent of children under age 18 (about 10 million children) were exposed to familial alcohol abuse or dependence during 1992. Dr. Grant also determined that 43 percent of children under age 18 (more than 28 million children) lived in households with one or more adults who at some time during their lives had experienced alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. Assuming that the best estimate lies between these two extremes, Dr. Grant determined that approximately one in four children is exposed to alcohol abuse and/or dependence in the family at some time prior to age 18.

Research has shown that families with an alcoholic member live in environments that are disorganized and unstable, said Dr. Grant. "Children of alcoholics may be neglected or abused and frequently face economic hardship and social isolation. They also are vulnerable to psychopathology and medical problems, including an increased risk for themselves developing alcohol abuse or alcohol alcoholism."

According to Dr. Gordis, "These findings once again call attention to the enormous impact of alcohol in our country and the need to confront its social, health, and economic consequences head on."
For an interview with Dr. Grant or Dr. Gordis, telephone NIAAA Press (301/443-3860 or 301/443-0595). For additional information about alcohol abuse and alcoholism, visit .

NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to