Violence and drinking ‘cut by alcohol price rises’

AN INCREASE in alcohol prices is partly responsible for a reduction in binge drinking and serious violence for the fifth consecutive year, a study has claimed.

David Frost says affordability is just one factor in the decrease

The number of people injured in incidents of serious violence dropped by 12 per cent between 2012 and 2013, with 32,000 fewer people treated for injuries related to violence in England and Wales, a Cardiff University report found.

There are 700 hospital admissions and 20 deaths a week in Scotland due to alcohol misuse.

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Professor Jonathan Shepherd, lead author of the study, said a change in alcohol habits could be one reason for the continued 

“Binge drinking has become less frequent, and the proportion of youths who don’t drink alcohol at all has risen sharply. Also, after decades in which alcohol has become more affordable, since 2008 it has become less affordable,” he said. “For people most prone to involvement in violence – those aged 18 to 30 – falls in disposable income are probably an important factor.”

In the report, the authors said: “Since 2008, the price of alcohol in both the on-trade and off-trade has increased and UK alcohol consumption levels have decreased from 10.8 (in 2008) to 10 litres per capita (in 2011).”

Their conclusions were based on a report, Statistics on Alcohol: England, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) in 2013 and the British Beer and Pub Association’s Statistical Handbook 2012. The HSCIC data showed that between 1980 and 2012, the price of alcohol increased by 24 per cent more than retail prices generally; although in the same period, disposable income went up by 99 per cent.

Violence among males decreased by 19.1 per cent, and by 14.1 per cent among women.

Professor Shepherd said other reasons for the decrease could be the results of agencies working together to prevent further violence.

David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, which is renewing its legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s proposals for minimum pricing of alcohol, said that, while studies showed alcohol-related incidents were falling, this was not necessarily linked to affordability. Mr Frost said: “It is clear from several studies, including the Cardiff University report, that measures in place to tackle alcohol misuse are already working to reduce health and social harms. In Scotland, official figures show that alcohol-related deaths rates have fallen 36 per cent from a peak in 2003.

“There are a number of social and cultural reasons for the fall in alcohol-related deaths and social harms. It is not simply down to changing affordability.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said his organisation backed the Scottish Government’s proposals for minimum pricing but said improvements in drinking culture were being thwarted by the sale of cheap supermarket alcohol.

Health secretary Alex Neil MSP said: “This is further evidence to support our commitment to introducing minimum pricing for alcohol. We drink a fifth more alcohol than our counterparts in England and Wales, where these findings relate to, fuelling the much higher levels of alcohol-related harm.

“Alcohol is 60 per cent more affordable now than in 1980 and it is the off-trade that is driving this trend. We agree that affordability remains a core issue and that is why we are committed to introducing minimum pricing as part of a package of measures to tackle alcohol misuse in Scottish communities.”