Australian researchers have revealed that increasing number of outlets that serve alcoholic drinks in the suburbs have played a role in increasing violence in those areas.
Previous studies have confirmed a relationship between alcohol-outlet density and violence, but few have looked at what happens within a suburb as outlet density changes.
Advertisement"The literature shows that suburbs with more alcohol outlets experience more violence, but only a handful of papers have explored what happens within a suburb as outlet density changes," said Michael Livingston, a research fellow at the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and the study's sole author.
"In addition, the study examined whether different types of outlets - hotel pubs, bars and restaurants, packaged-liquor outlets - had different effects in specific types of suburbs - inner-city, outer-suburbs, etc. - which is a question that few studies in this area have examined," he added.
Livingston and colleagues gathered and analysed nine years of information, from the years 1996 to 2005, for three groupings of data: three types of alcohol outlets - general (hotel), on-premise (nightclubs, restaurants and bars), and packaged - using liquor-licensing records; alcohol-related violence, using police-recorded night-time assault numbers; and 186 postcodes (the equivalent of zip codes) in the metropolitan area of Melbourne, corresponding to roughly 85 percent of the population.
The postcodes were further grouped into five clusters, based on socio-demographics.
"The study found that, across Melbourne, the three types of outlets examined - hotel pubs, bars, and packaged liquor outlets - all had positive relationships to assault rates," Livingston said.
"In other words, increasing the density of these outlets in a suburb leads to increasing rates of violence in that suburb. When these relationships were explored for specific types of suburbs, it was found that hotels and bars were the biggest drivers of violence in inner-city areas and packaged liquor outlets were more important in suburban areas," he added.
Livingston said that, for inner-city areas, each additional hotel pub or on-premise license was related to two extra night-time assaults per year - the strongest link found in the study.
Bars and restaurants were strongly associated with violence in inner-suburban areas, with each extra premise responsible for, on average, an extra 0.5 night-time assaults per year.
He added that packaged liquor outlets were the strongest influence on violence rates in outer-suburban areas.
"The results of this study don't really point to particular communities being more at risk than others. Instead they suggest that different types of outlets are problematic in different areas," Livingston said.
Researchers recommend that greater attention be paid to outlet density when issuing liquor licenses.
"The strong longitudinal relationship between outlet density and violence greatly strengthens the evidence base that density of alcohol outlets in a suburb is a driver of violence, making liquor licensing and planning regulations legitimate areas for public-health interventions," said Livingston.
The study will be published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at OnlineEarly.