A Review of Existing Studies Reporting the Negative Effects of Alcohol Access and Positive Effects of Alcohol Control Policies on Interpersonal Violence

Front Public Health. 2015 Nov 16;3:253. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2015.00253. eCollection 2015.


Alcohol consumption often leads to elevated rates of violence yet alcohol access policies continue to relax across the globe. Our review establishes the extent alcohol policy can moderate violent crime through alcohol availability restrictions. Results were informed from comprehensive selection of peer-reviewed journals from 1950 to October 2015. Our search identified 87 relevant studies on alcohol access and violence conducted across 12 countries. Seventeen studies included quasi-control design, and 23 conducted intervention analysis. Seventy-one (82%) reported a significant relationship between alcohol access and violent offenses. Alcohol outlet studies reported the greatest percentage of significant results (93%), with trading hours (63%), and alcohol price following (58%). Results from baseline studies indicated the effectiveness of increasing the price of commonly consumed alcohol, restricting the hours of alcohol trading, and limiting the number of alcohol outlets per region to prevent violent offenses. Unclear are the effects of tax reductions, restriction of on-premises re-entry, and different outlet types on violent crime. Further, the generalization of statistics over broad areas and the low number of control/intervention studies poses some concern for confounding or correlated effects on study results, and amount of information for local-level prevention of interpersonal violence. Future studies should focus on gathering longitudinal data, validating models, limiting crime data to peak drinking days and times, and wherever possible collecting the joint distribution between violent crime, intoxication, and place. A greater uptake of local-level analysis will benefit studies comparing the influence of multiple alcohol establishment types by relating the location of a crime to establishment proximity. Despite, some uncertainties particular studies showed that even modest policy changes, such as 1% increases in alcohol price, 1 h changes to closing times, and limiting establishment densities to <25 outlets per postal code substantively reduce violent crime.

Keywords: alcohol outlet density; alcohol policy; alcohol price; alcohol trading hours; violence.

Publication types

  • Review