- More than a third of Americans say alcohol has caused trouble in family
- More than a fourth report family troubles because of drug abuse
- Altogether, 46% have experienced one or the other issue
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Close to half of U.S. adults, 46%, have dealt with substance abuse problems in their family: 18% have had just alcohol problems and 10% have had just drug problems, while 18% have experienced both.
|Drinking, only, a cause of trouble in family||18|
|Drugs, only, a cause of trouble in family||10|
|Drinking and drugs both causes of trouble in family||18|
These findings are based on combined 2018-2019 data from Gallup's annual Consumption Habits poll, conducted each July. Overall, across the two polls, 36% of Americans reported that drinking has been a cause of trouble in their family and 28% said the same of drug abuse.
Both questions are lifetime measures, asking Americans if drinking or drug abuse has ever been a problem in their family. It might be expected that the rates of reported problems would increase by age, given that older Americans have had more time to accumulate life experiences, but that is not the case.
- Reported family problems with drinking are similar among adults of all age groups -- at or near 35%.
- The relationship is the opposite of what might be expected for drugs, as a higher percentage of adults under 55 (31%) than of those 55 and older (24%) say there has ever been a problem with drug abuse in their family.
Women are slightly more likely than men to report family problems with drugs, while adults without a college degree (39%) are more likely than those with a degree (32%) to report family drinking problems.
Those who rarely or never attend a worship service report higher rates of family problems with drinking and drugs than those who go weekly.
Some regional differences are also seen, with residents of the West more likely than those in the East to report drinking problems. Westerners are also more likely than Easterners and Southerners to report family drug problems. However, no other regional differences are statistically significant.
|18 to 34||38||30|
|35 to 54||35||31|
|55 and older||37||25|
|Not college graduate||39||30|
|Attendance at religious services|
Reported Drinking Problems Higher in Recent Decades Than Previously
Gallup's trend on drinking problems starts in 1947, when 15% reported having family problems with alcohol. The percentage reporting problems increased to 22% during the 1970s and reached 36% in the late 1990s. Since then, the incidence has varied between 28% and 37%, putting today's 36% on the high side.
Whether the long-term rise in reported drinking problems reflects real changes, greater respondent awareness of drinking problems or greater willingness to report them isn't clear. One thing is clear: Drinking isn't more common today than it was then, with similar percentages of Americans in the 1940s and today reporting that they drink alcohol -- around 65%.
Gallup's trend line on drugs as a family problem is shorter, having started in 1995. For the first decade after that, the percentage reporting drug abuse as a family problem rose slightly, from an average 18% to just over 20%. After a long gap in measurement, Gallup's subsequent readings from 2018-2019 are up further, averaging 28%.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.