In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Alcohol Availability and Violence

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Major Journals
  • Thematic Issues of Journals
  • Major Approaches
  • Youth
  • Evaluations of Policies and Laws
  • Evaluations of Comprehensive Interventions

Public Health Alcohol Availability and Violence
Daikwon Han, Dennis M. Gorman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0114


Empirical studies of the effects of alcohol availability on violence began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s. These initial studies were generally ecological and cross-sectional and tended to use official crime statistics as the source of data for violence and assess alcohol availability in terms of outlet density. Also, most studies were implicitly based on the availability theory of alcohol-related problems, that is, the idea that consumption will increase as availability increases and this, in turn, will lead to a rise in both excessive drinking and alcohol-related problems. These studies were also consistent in showing an association between alcohol outlet densities and violent crime, and these associations remained once social and demographic characteristics of the geographic units of analysis (such as poverty and residential mobility) were controlled for in the data analysis. Since these early studies, considerable advances have been made in the field, especially methodologically. These advances include the use of geospatial statistical methods and space-time models, the use of longitudinal study designs, and the assessment of interventions and policy initiatives that either increase or decrease the availability of alcohol. The latter includes studies that focus on the days of sale and hours of sale of alcohol, as well as studies that focus on changes in outlet density. Also, the types of violence that have been studied have expanded beyond police reports of violent crime to include hospital admission data pertaining to assaults and injuries, social service data pertaining to child abuse and neglect and domestic violence, and self-reports of victimization. Theoretical advances have been less noticeable as this essentially empirical and methodological literature has not, for the most part, been a source of theory development and testing. Hopefully, this will change in the near future as alcohol studies researchers start to draw on ecological theories from within criminology and other social sciences in an effort to better understand the empirical association between alcohol availability and violence.

General Overviews

Although not focused specifically on violence, Babor, et al. 2010 presents a global perspective on alcohol use and related problems and a thorough review of the evidence pertaining to prevention policies and programs. The NIAAA monograph Wilson and Dufour 2000 is also not focused specifically on violence, but it contains a number of excellent papers that address the methodological issues encountered when studying alcohol availability and alcohol-related problems in small geographic areas. Campbell, et al. 2009 and Popova, et al. 2009 each review the research literature pertaining to the association between alcohol availability and alcohol-related problems in general. Parker and Auerhahn 1998 and Livingston, et al. 2007, while not systematic, are focused specifically on the association between alcohol availability and violence and also discuss the theories that have been presented to explain the association between alcohol availability and violence. Roman, et al. 2008 reviews the studies that have specifically focused on the relationship between alcohol outlets and crime, including violence, child maltreatment, robbery, and property crime.

  • Babor, T. F., R. Caetano, S. Casswell, et al. 2010. Alcohol: No ordinary commodity. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199551149.001.0001

    This book presents a review of the evidence pertaining to drinking patterns and alcohol-related problems worldwide and discusses the policy options available for addressing these. It focuses on six specific strategies, including regulating the physical availability of alcohol and modifying various drinking contexts.

  • Campbell, C. A., R. A. Hahn, R. Elder, et al. 2009. The effectiveness of limiting alcohol outlet density as a means of reducing excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 37:556–569.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.09.028

    This paper presents a systematic review of studies of alcohol outlet density and alcohol-related problems including violence. The research reviewed includes interrupted time-series studies, privatization studies, assessments of alcohol bans and licensing policy changes, and cross-sectional studies. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Livingston, M., T. Chiikritzhs, and R. Room. 2007. Changing the density of alcohol outlets to reduce alcohol-related problems. Drug and Alcohol Review 26:557–566.

    DOI: 10.1080/09595230701499191

    Presents a discussion of the historical background to the current interest in alcohol availability and violence, a review of key recent studies of the relationship between availability, consumption, and violence, and a discussion of the theories that have been proposed to explain these relationships. The implications of research for the harm policies are also discussed.

  • Parker, R. N., and K. Auerhahn. 1998. Alcohol, drugs, and violence. Annual Review of Sociology 24:291–311.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.291

    Presents a review of the literature on the relationship between alcohol and violence and the literature on the relationship between drugs and violence, and discusses some of the theoretical approaches to understanding these relationships. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Popova, S., N. Giesbrecht, D. Bekmuradov, and J. Patra. 2009. Hours and days of sale and density of alcohol outlets: impacts on alcohol consumption and damage: A systematic review. Alcohol and Alcoholism 44:500–516.

    DOI: 10.1093/alcalc/agp054

    Presents a systematic review of studies published between 2000 and 2008 that examined the effects of alcohol outlet density and hours and days of sale on alcohol use and alcohol-related problems including violence.

  • Roman, C. G., S. E. Reid, A. S. Bhati, and B. Tereschchenko. 2008. Alcohol outlets as attractors of violence and disorder: A closer look at the neighborhood environment. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    The first chapter of this report provides a detailed review of the empirical literature that has examined the association between alcohol outlet locations/density and crime.

  • Wilson, R. A., and M. C. Dufour. 2000. The epidemiology of alcohol problems in small geographic areas. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Research Monograph 36. Bethesda, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services.

    This edited volume contains ten papers that focus on alcohol consumption/outlet density and related problems in small geographic areas. The topics covered include the use of social indicator models, the use of survey and archival data, geographic information systems, and reducing problems through controls on availability and price.

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