I am looking to write an online article about the negative effects of eating/drinking a certain item. There are articles that have a title such as "Top Health Benefits of _____". What could be used to describe the exact opposite?

There is a similarly titled question, "Antonym of benefit". However, the content of the question is different and its answer is not helpful for my situation.

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    +1 for doing your research before posting! Would detractions work? A benefit is "an advantage or profit gained" while detraction is "a taking away". You'd end up with "Top Health Detractions of _____". Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 12:57
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    Top health risks of might work.
    – CDM
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 13:03
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    Health detriment?
    – jaredready
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 14:29
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    Health malefit?
    – Crissov
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:34
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    @KyleWilliamson I had added it as an answer to the question you linked to, so repeated it here in a comment only.
    – Crissov
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:49

10 Answers 10


Top Health Risks is the phrase that you're looking for!

Risk (noun)

a situation involving exposure to danger.


For reference, here's an Ngram plot on the usage of "Health Risks of Alcohol" from 1975 to 2008.

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    I don't think the answer is this straightforward (I'm calling into question my own contribution., threat, too). A risk isn't necessarily bad for you. It's got to be actually detrimental to your health, 100% of the time, to be the opposite of a benefit, doesn't it?
    – Charl E
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 13:22
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    @CharlE - At times, a risk in itself may not be bad, but when it is preceded by "health", it almost always means detrimental to health.
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 13:25
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    @CharlE "Health Risk" is different than a regular risk - it's taking on an activity that increases the chance of developing health complications - drinking heavily, smoking heavily, eating high fatty foods are all health risks - it's not a gamble to win something, it's saying that it's increasing your chances of getting those complications.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 15:41
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    Whatever the literal meanings of all these words are, they words that most often are used as opposite pairs are 'benefits and risks'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 18:35
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    @Peter that is exactly what I'm saying. Standing alone, a benefit and a risk are not exact counterparts when taken literally. I'm just telling you that at least in medical practice, they are used together to signify the alternatives. Drug X does good things and bad things, they are called respectively benefits and risks. Life isn't literal.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:11

You could consider using health hazard which means:

A danger to health resulting from exposure to environmental pollutants, such as asbestos or ionizing radiation, or to a life-style choice, such as cigarette smoking or chemical abuse.

[Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 9th edition]

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    Hazard seems right to me. A benefit offers to protect or provide for your well being. A hazard threatens it. Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 17:16
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    I have the same objection as above: I find hazard not exactly opposing benefit. Rock climbing is a health hazard: You may not fall and walk away as well as you came. By contrast, seriously drinking comes with a health penalty (not only a potential). Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 15:05
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    @Peter You are comparing apples with oranges. You need to compare rock climbing with drinking and (rope-) free-climbing with serious drinking.
    – A.S.
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 20:18

How about detriment?

  1. loss, damage, disadvantage, or injury.

  2. a cause of loss or damage.

"Top Health Detriments of ________"

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    This is incorrect, because "the detriment of X" means that X is harmed, not that X is harmful. "I drink lots of alcohol, to the detriment of my health." You can see ngram results, that "detriment of" is now almost exclusively used in the construction "to the detriment of": books.google.com/ngrams/… Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 17:23

I don't believe that there is a single word that fits exactly in that sentence structure "Health _____ of", but normally in medical circles things are either beneficial or harmful, so one would probably go for something like

"10 harmful effects of __________"


"10 ways ___________ can harm you"

or perhaps

"10 detrimental side-effects of__________"

although in today's world of over-senasionalizing things, for the tabloid-style title you'd go:

"10 ways ____________ can kill you!"


"10 ways ____________ will ruin your health!"
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    How about ill effects? Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 14:27
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    Number six will shock you! Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 14:29


negative health effects

Google Books

damaging effects

Google Books

deleterious (health) effects


Having a harmful effect; injurious: the deleterious effects of smoking. American Heritage Dictionary

Harmful often in a subtle or unexpected way deleterious effects; deleterious to health M-W

Injurious to health Ramdom House



Threats, perhaps. The Top Threats to Health from consuming _____.

If you Google Threats to Health you will see that it is quite commonly used in the context you're suggesting.

Global public health threats in the 21st century

from the World Health Organisation, for instance.


Disbenefits is a word I have used from time to time, though I was astonished to find that it doesn't appear in all dictionaries so may be office-speak, slang or new and is designated as 'British [English]' in the site linked in this answer


Noun: A disadvantage or loss resulting from something: ‘an environmental disbenefit to the area of Teesside’


E.g. "The health disbenefits of eating [these things] are..."

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    Nice. I'm going to start using this. Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 4:12
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    Thanks for the suggestion. I live in the united states and have never heard of this word. Too bad it is not common, as it seems to be the most logical word. Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 14:19
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    Double-plus good - i.e. horrible.
    – A.S.
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 20:19
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    What next? Malefit?
    – TaW
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 3:27
  • Why have I received 3 DV? It IS a word, and an apposite one at that! Bemused.
    – Marv Mills
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 9:16

The opposite of a health benefit is a health penalty. Googling "health penalty" "health benefit" comes up with quite a few significant links.

The word pair fits also etymologically quite nicely. Penalty as well as benefit are originally human acts: A punishment (Latin poena), and a good deed (bene factum). Both terms imply some sort of book keeping, as in in accounting or a game. Both terms for originally human acts have acquired an impersonal meaning as well: "The tax benefits of marriage", or "The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women". Using the term penalty, even when describing a consequence which is not the act of a single person, evokes an image of a rule based framework, like a sports game or a court case. Certainly some possibly imaginary score is lowered.

Both terms are frequently used in economics where they apply quite naturally, because it's a rule based framework where scores are kept.

Using them in medicine applies this concept of rule-based score keeping to a person's health and interactions, thus "economifying" or "gamifying" it.


Top Health Malefits of ____

OED with prefix mal+ ‘ill’, ‘wrong’, ‘improper(ly)’:

Self-conscious use as an antithesis to benefit n.


detriment, disadvantage, encumbrance, hindrance, nuisance, obstacle
Antonyms: advantage, aid, assistance, benefit, boon, foredeal, help

Urban Dictionary:

Something that is harmful or disadvantageous.

Merriam-Webster has no entry for it, but upon search suggests malefic ‘malignant’, ‘malicious’. The related actor term malefactor, it lists of course. So the word fits in well with other mal+ terms, although some readers may mistake it to relate to male instead.

Other associations people may have are Maleficent, the evil fairy in Disney’s 1959 adaptation of Sleeping Beauty and later installments of the franchise, and the board game Malefiz that is also known as Barricade.


Consider "Top Health Contraindication of ...".

Definition: medical reason for using something, such as a treatment, procedure, or activity. It implies risk.

Example: Quinia in small doses and stimulants are appropriate whenever there is no contraindication to their employment.

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