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New research exploring the links between alcohol availability and harm in Scotland

May 31st 2018

Alcohol Focus Scotland has worked with the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH) at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, to provide further evidence of the links between alcohol availability and harm in Scotland. 

Previous research carried out by CRESH in 2014 found a positive relationship between alcohol availability and harm across Scotland.  An updated analysis was published in April 2018; profiles containing the updated findings, at both a national and individual local authority level, can be accessed via the links below.  Detailed local information on availaiblity at neighbourhood level can be found using the CRESH WebMap.

How was the research conducted?

Information was gathered on the number of places selling alcohol, health harms and crime rates within neighbourhoods across the whole of Scotland and for each local authority area. Researchers compared data zones (small areas representing neighbourhoods that have between 500 and 1000 residents) to see if there was a relationship between the number of alcohol outlets in a neighbourhood and the rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations.  The profiles also consider, for the first time, the relationships between alcohol outlet availability and crime and deprivation rates.

What did the research find?

Across the whole of Scotland, neighbourhoods with the highest alcohol outlet availability had significantly higher rates of alcohol-related health harm and crime.

  • Alcohol-related death rates in neighbourhoods with the most alcohol outlets were double those in neighbourhoods with the least.
  • Alcohol-related hospitalisation rates in neighbourhoods with the most alcohol outlets were almost double those in neighbourhoods with the least.
  • Crime rates were more than four times higher in neighbourhoods with the most alcohol outlets as compared to the least.
  • Alcohol outlet availability was found to be related to health and crime outcomes for both on-sales and off-sales premises, and in both urban and rural local authorities.
  • The relationships between availability and harm were found even when other factors were discounted (such as age and sex of the population, levels of income deprivation or urban/rural status).
  • There were 40% more alcohol outlets in the most deprived neighbourhoods than in the least deprived neighbourhoods.
  • From 2012 to 2016, the total number of alcohol outlets in Scotland increased by 472 to 16,629 (11,522 on-sales outlets and 5,107 off-sales outlets).  This increase was driven by an increase in off-sales outlets.

The profiles are available for download from Alcohol Focus Scotland’s website.

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