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Five Types of Alcoholics

With an MS in Health Education and Promotion, you can create programs to help reduce alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism is a serious problem for world health, causing 3 million deaths each year.1 And it’s a problem that shows no signs of waning.2

“The harmful use of alcohol is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions,” the World Health Organization (WHO) says. “Drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioral disorders, including alcohol dependence, major noncommunicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases, as well as injuries resulting from violence and road clashes and collisions.”1

Five Types of Alcoholics

Global health education programs are critically needed to illuminate the risks of alcoholism and shift behavior to save lives. But who, exactly, is an alcoholic? Through a national clinical study, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, and National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions identified five subtypes of people with alcoholism. These are their findings:3

1. Young Adult Subtype (31.5%)

This is the largest of the five groups. Young adults generally start drinking around the age of 19 and develop an alcohol dependency by 24. Members of this group are 2.5 times more likely to be male than female and are usually single. They have comparatively low rates of co-occurring mental health conditions and moderate rates of other substance abuse disorders. Typically, they have family members with alcoholism as well.

Likely to be in college, this subtype drinks less frequently than other groups, but they are more prone to binge drink when they do. Few seek treatment, but when they do, they usually choose a 12-step program.

2. Functional Subtype (19.5%)

People in the functional subtype manage to prevent the disease from interfering in their professional and personal lives, but often with dire consequences. Their disease can continue for years until a severe, alcohol-related problem in their health or relationships arises. With the highest education and income levels of all alcoholic types, they are predominately middle-aged (around 41), male (60%), and married (about 50%). They usually develop an alcohol dependency in their late 30s, later than other subtypes, and experience moderate rates of depression. While they tend to smoke, few have any other forms of substance abuse.

Fewer than 20% of this subgroup seek help, and when they do, most turn to a 12-step program or private healthcare professional.

3. Intermediate Familial Subtype (18.8%)

This subtype starts to drink earlier than other groups—around the age of 17—and becomes dependent earlier, usually by age 32. Sixty-four percent are male. Highly likely to have immediate family members with alcoholism, they also have a high probability of experiencing antisocial personality disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. These individuals also have high rates of cigarette, marijuana, and cocaine addiction.

This group has attained a higher education level than all groups other than the functional subtype. More hold full-time jobs, but their income skews lower than the functional subtype. This group is unlikely to seek treatment, but individuals who do seek treatment choose self-help groups, specialty treatment programs, detoxification programs, and private health care providers.

4. Young Antisocial Subtype (21.1%)

This group is the youngest to start drinking and to become alcohol-dependent (15 and 18, respectively). More than 75% are male, and more than 50% have traits of antisocial personality disorder. People in the young antisocial subtype also experience high rates of depression, bipolar disorder, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and have the highest rates of other substance abuse disorders. Substances may include cigarettes, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and opioids.

With the lowest levels of education, employment, and income of any subtype, this group also drinks more at one time and more overall than other groups. Yet, members of this group—35%—are more likely to seek help, and from multiple sources, including private healthcare providers, self-help groups, specialty treatment programs, and detox programs.

5. Chronic Severe Subtype (9.2%)

People in this subtype begin drinking at roughly 15 years of age, developing a dependency at about 29. Seventy-seven percent have close family members with alcoholism, the highest percentage of any subtype. Nearly 50% experience antisocial personality disorder, the second-highest rate of any subtype. People in the chronic severe subtype are the most likely of any group to experience major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and panic disorder. They also may have addictions to cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, and opioids.

This subtype has the highest rates of divorce, separation, and visits to the emergency room due to drinking. With one of the lowest education levels of any subtype and the lowest employment rate, this group drinks more frequently than any other, although their total alcohol intake is less than that of the young antisocial subtype. Sixty-six percent have sought help at some point, making them the group most likely to have done so. They often seek help at self-help groups, rehabilitation programs, and detox programs.

Helping Those Who Need Help

Alcoholism and its adverse impact on individuals, families, and society is fueling a need for health educators who can create effective national and global health education programs. An MS in Health Education and Promotion from Walden University can help provide the skills you need to create comprehensive alcohol-related awareness, education, and prevention strategies for individuals and communities.

Walden prepares you to become a multifaceted professional who can make a difference in many settings throughout your career. While earning an online master’s in health education and promotion, you’ll learn about historic milestones and study future trends. You’ll analyze the factors that impact both individual and population health. And you’ll learn how to develop culturally tailored health education programs and measure their efficacy.

Walden dedicates itself to helping to shape innovative, effective healthcare leaders. When you choose Walden for your online master’s in health education and promotion, you’ll experience the Walden difference, with a focus on:

  • Job-ready skills: Walden’s MS in Healthcare and Promotion degree program aligns with the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Educators outlined by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.
  • Preparation for career-enhancing credentials: Walden’s coursework prepares students to take the national Certified Health Education Specialist and Master Certified Health Education Specialist exams.
  • A rewarding career: You’ll be prepared to make a difference, whether you wish to influence lives as an educator or to develop groundbreaking social outreach initiatives.

Depending on your interests, experience, and training, public health job options may include:

  • Health educator/counselor
  • Health promotion specialist
  • Health coach/wellness coach 
  • Health coalition specialist
  • Community health/outreach coordinator
  • Health education specialist/director 

No matter what role you choose, with a master’s in health education and promotion online from Walden, you can start tackling some of today’s most pressing health problems—and changing the world.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering public health graduate programs, including an MS in Health Education and Promotion. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.



Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,

Note on certification: The MS in Health Education and Promotion has been designed to reflect the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Educators outlined by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and to prepare students to sit for the national Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) exams. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide information relating to national certification exams; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to national certification exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification. For more information about the CHES and MCHES exams, students should visit