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Research Summary

Discrimination Against People With Alcoholism

People with alcohol dependence often face discrimination from individuals and institutions. Through phone interviews of 1012 German adults, researchers examined whether public attitudes and beliefs about alcohol dependence (1) are more negative than those about other diseases (i.e., schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatism, diabetes, AIDS, myocardial infarction, and cancer), and (2) affect public preferences for resource allocation.

  • Only 7% of respondents would spare alcohol treatment from budget cuts if resources were scarce.
  • Most (85%) thought alcoholism, more than any other disease, was self-inflicted.
  • More respondents (78%) would distance themselves from people with alcoholism than from people with other diseases.
  • A little over half believed that alcoholism was severe, but only 30% felt it could be treated effectively.
  • Just 4% thought they were at risk for alcoholism.
  • Respondents were more likely to choose budget cuts for alcohol treatment if they believed that alcoholism was self-inflicted and not as severe as other conditions, and that their risk of alcoholism was low.


This study highlights the public’s lack of understanding about alcohol dependence and the severe stigma faced by people with the disease. Increasing awareness and destigmatizing alcoholism are essential to improve the delivery of quality care.

Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH


Schomerus G, Matschinger H, Angermeyer MC. Alcoholism: illness beliefs and resource allocation preferences of the public. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2006;82(3):204–210.