Background: Male alcohol consumption is one of the accepted risk factors for intimate partner violence. The aim of this study is to assess the magnitude of the association between male alcohol consumption and intimate partner violence against women and the quality of the evidence of published papers exploring this relationship empirically.
Methods: Systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative studies (1966-2004). Eight databases from Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Medicine, and Life Sciences were reviewed. Studies with available 2 x 2 table or odds ratio were analysed using meta-analytic techniques.
Results: A total of 22 studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria for the systematic review: 14 (63.6%) were cross-sectional studies, 6 (27.3%) case-series, 2 (9.1%) case-control studies. Ten studies analysed the relationship between alcohol and violence as their primary hypothesis and only two used a direct measure of alcohol consumption. Of them, 11 papers were included in the meta-analysis. The overall pooled odds ratio was 4.57 (95% confidence limits 3.30-6.35), but a high degree of heterogeneity was observed. The magnitude of the effect was inversely associated with the year of publication. The biggest odds ratios were obtained in the studies with the smallest sample sizes.
Conclusions: The evidence about the relationship between alcohol consumption and intimate partner violence is of low quality in the study designs and maybe biased by publication of positive results. Currently there is not enough empirical evidence to support preventive policies based on male alcohol consumption as a risk factor in the particular case of intimate partner violence.