Objectives: We systematically reviewed the effects of alcohol taxes and prices on alcohol-related morbidity and mortality to assess their public health impact.
Methods: We searched 12 databases, along with articles' reference lists, for studies providing estimates of the relationship between alcohol taxes and prices and measures of risky behavior or morbidity and mortality, then coded for effect sizes and numerous population and study characteristics. We combined independent estimates in random-effects models to obtain aggregate effect estimates.
Results: We identified 50 articles, containing 340 estimates. Meta-estimates were r = -0.347 for alcohol-related disease and injury outcomes, -0.022 for violence, -0.048 for suicide, -0.112 for traffic crash outcomes, -0.055 for sexually transmitted diseases, -0.022 for other drug use, and -0.014 for crime and other misbehavior measures. All except suicide were statistically significant.
Conclusions: Public policies affecting the price of alcoholic beverages have significant effects on alcohol-related disease and injury rates. Our results suggest that doubling the alcohol tax would reduce alcohol-related mortality by an average of 35%, traffic crash deaths by 11%, sexually transmitted disease by 6%, violence by 2%, and crime by 1.4%.