Highlights of History
30% say that drug abuse has caused family problems, compared to 22% in 2005
37% say that drinking has caused problems in the family, which corresponds to the historical high
Smoking has caused serious family health problems in 43%
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thirty percent of Americans say drug abuse has caused problems in their families. This is a significant increase from 22% in 2005 when Gallup last asked the question, and is a signal that the country's opioid epidemic, which has worsened in recent years, is taking a toll.
The latest reading from a Gallup survey, July 1-11, is the sixth time Gallup asked the 1995 question when 19% of Americans said drug abuse was causing problems in their families. According to the Centers for Control and Prevention of Diseases (CDC), prescription opioid overdoses increased around 1999, with heroin overdoses increasing sharply in 2010 and increasing again in 2013 due to synthetic opioids.
Between 1999 and 2000, the percentage of Americans who said that drug abuse was the cause of family problems increased by five percentage points to 22%, and remained at that level until 2005. However, Gallup did not ask about the effects of drug abuse on families between 2005 and 2018, the latest number, a historic high, shows the overall increase in opioid deaths over that period.
While there are few differences in reports of drug-related family problems by age, income, education, and urbanity, there are remarkable differences by region and gender.
Americans residing in the West (38%) are much more likely than Americans in the Midwest (27%), South (26%), or East (28%) to report drug abuse in their families. A similar pattern was observed in previous Gallup surveys. CDC data on opioid overdoses show that the West region recorded the largest increase between 2016 and 2017 after the Midwest region.
Women (33%) say more often than men (26%) that substance abuse has caused family problems.
Alcohol is also a source of family problems
More Americans say drinking has caused family problems than the same drug abuse. The current value of 37% corresponds to Gallup's historical high of July 2004 for this question, which was first asked in 1947 and has been consistently asked since 1974.
Since 1997, the percentage of Americans who reported that their families were adversely affected by alcohol consumption was mainly at or above 30%. Previously, Americans were less inclined to say that alcohol causes family problems. This is not due to an increase in the percentage of Americans who say they drink since it has changed little since Gallup asked about alcohol in 1939. Instead, this could be the result of increased awareness of alcohol-related problems in society.
Those who personally do without alcohol say 44% to 33% more often than those who drink at least occasionally that alcohol has caused problems in their families. This is further evidence of a pattern observed in previous Gallup surveys. While it is not possible to determine the reason for this trend based on the data, it is conceivable that those who have problems with their families due to alcohol will avoid this as a result. Or, those who do not drink may characterize alcohol-related incidents as more problematic than those who do.
Smoking causes more problems than obesity in American families
The survey asked not only about family problems related to alcohol and drug use, but also about family problems – namely health problems – related to smoking and obesity.
Americans say that smoking has caused serious health problems in their families far more often than they say the same about obesity. 43 percent now say that smoking has caused health problems. Gallup has asked this question eight times since 1999 and the results have changed little – between 39% and 45% – although the general smoking rate in the population has decreased. Women and non-smokers are more likely than men and smokers to report that their families have had serious problems smoking.
Meanwhile, 24% of Americans say that obesity has caused serious health problems in their families, almost the same percentage as in 2007 (28%), the only previous reading on this question. Women, younger adults, and those who say they are currently overweight are more likely than their colleagues to say that obesity has had a negative impact on their families' health.
Americans report that everyone was a cause of serious health problems in their families
GALLUP, 1-11 July 2018
Out of four health problems tested by Gallup, smoking and drinking cause more problems in American families than substance abuse and obesity. However, the opioid epidemic that President Donald Trump declared a public health emergency last October and that has heightened public awareness of the drug problem seems to have led to an increase in the number of American families due to have had problems with substance abuse
Although drinking is still considered morally acceptable to most Americans, reports of family problems related to alcohol are currently at their historic highs. The US smoking rate has now bottomed out, and most Americans consider cigarettes to be very harmful. Still, more American families have serious health problems with cigarettes than with other health problems tested. If smoking is less common, its negative effects on the health of Americans are likely to decrease.
The results of this Gallup survey are based on telephone interviews from July 1 to 11, 2018 with a random sample of 1,033 adults 18 years and older living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the error rate in the sample was ± 4 percentage points at a confidence level of 95%. All reported margins of the sampling error contain calculated design effects for the weight.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% of those surveyed by mobile phones and 30% of those surveyed in the fixed network, as well as additional minimum quotas by time zone within the region. Landline and mobile phone numbers are selected using random dialing methods.
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