Increased risk of binge drinking and alcohol-related harm induced by higher number of alcohol outlets

Nov 01, 2010

University of Otago researchers have discovered an association between the number of liquor outlets within easy walking distance of home (1km) and the level of binge drinking and alcohol related harm reported in the community. The results of the study, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand, have just been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The researchers found that people with more off-licences close to their home were more likely to be binge drinkers. Off-licences are places where you buy take-away alcohol, including supermarkets, liquor stores and convenience stores.

As well as this, for each type of outlet (bars/pubs, clubs, restaurants and off-licences), there was a clear association between the number of outlets and the level of harm due to drinking reported by people living within 1km. The types of harm surveyed included effects on performance at work, on relationships, on physical health and finances.

This study used a national survey to assess individual alcohol drinking patterns, and self- reported harm from alcohol. The participants’ addresses were then mapped and compared with location of alcohol outlets. The researchers pinpointed the location of all pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants and off-licences in New Zealand and counted the number of each type within 1 km of each participant’s home.

“With each extra off-licence alcohol outlet within 1 km, the odds of binge drinking increased by about 4%,” says study lead author, Professor Jennie Connor of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.

Although a 4% increase doesn’t sound like much, Professor Connor points out that compared with five off-licences in an area, having 15 means 48% more and a 26% increase in alcohol related harm.

“This is an important finding considering that national alcohol policies are currently under review. We need to rethink the ease of obtaining liquor licenses and how many are appropriate,” says Professor Connor.

Dr. Marion Poore, Medical Officer of Health in Dunedin, agrees:

“Turning around New Zealand's heavy drinking culture is a whole of community issue. Citizens should ask new Councils to act now, by developing local plans that limit the number and location of outlets. The challenge for Local Government is how to balance the overall wellbeing of the community with the perceived economic benefit from an increasing number of outlets."

The researchers say that while this study cannot prove that increased outlet density causes these problems, it does demonstrate that the link seen in international research is also found in . Other characteristics of the people and neighbourhoods have been taken into account, making it less likely that the findings have an alternative explanation.

“It is very likely that outlet density is making a contribution to harm, and it is an area where better policy could improve health and a range of social problems,” concludes Professor Connor.

Explore further: Noise from fireworks threatens young ears

Related Stories

T'is the season to be jolly?

Dec 28, 2008

As the party season approaches, a timely reminder of the issues surrounding the binge drinking culture are again highlighted by research into 'young people and alcohol' a team lead by Professor Christine Griffin, at the University ...

Research shows a link between alcoholism and memory

Sep 10, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A University of Sussex leading expert on the psychological effects of drinking told an audience at the BA Festival of Science this week that the effect alcohol has on memory could contribute to alcoholism.

Binge drinking tied to conditions in the college environment

Jul 11, 2008

Heavy alcohol use, or binge drinking, among college students in the United States is tied to conditions in the college environment. That is one of the key findings from research conducted by researchers with the Harvard School ...

Recommended for you

Noise from fireworks threatens young ears

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The Fourth of July weekend is a time for celebrations and beautiful fireworks displays. But, parents do need to take steps to protect their children's ears from loud fireworks, a hearing expert ...

Many new teen drivers 'crash' in simulated driving task

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Around four in 10 newly licensed teen drivers "crashed" in a simulated driving test, suggesting that many adolescents lack the skills they need to stay safe on the road, according to a new study.

Insurer Aetna to buy Humana in $35B deal

15 hours ago

Aetna will spend about $35 billion to buy rival Humana and become the latest health insurer bulking up on government business as the industry adjusts to the federal health care overhaul.

Feeling impulsive or frustrated? Take a nap

17 hours ago

Taking a nap may be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and to boost tolerance for frustration, according to a University of Michigan study.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.