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Higher retail alcohol sales increase the risk of suffering serious assault

In a new paper, Joel Ray and colleagues use a population-based case-crossover design to show that a doubling in the level of usual daily alcohol sales from retail outlets in Ontario is associated with a 13% higher relative risk of hospitalisation for assault. The relative risk was found to be highest for spirits and lowest for beer. While a doubling in the sales (per store, per day) proved significant for the relative risk of males being hospitalised, this was not found for females.

The paper, entitled Alcohol Sales and Risk of Serious Assault, can be found here:

Russell Bennetts and Rachel Seabrook of the Institute of Alcohol Studies provide a Perspective article on this new paper, as published in PLoS Medicine. A survey of the relevant literature found that factors important in the link between alcohol sales and violence include “the volume of alcohol consumed and its pattern of consumption, cultural characteristics, social context, and income inequality.” A range of studies are discussed that have examined the “role of alcohol in violent incidents, beyond a simplified notion of consumption levels alone acting as a modifier.”

The Perspective points out that this new paper addresses concerns about a lack of adequate controls in previous studies using survey data. The case-crossover method addresses a number of concerns regarding potential bias in other studies. Methodological issues are discussed including limitations of the paper. However, it is argued that such limitations would tend to attenuate any observed relationship and thus the fact that Ray and colleagues found a link between alcohol sales and risk of assault “should lend considerable weight to their conclusion that the risk of being a victim of serious assault increase with alcohol sales.” An interpretation of the results is offered, “when a lot of alcohol is consumed, the danger of being assaulted is greater.” Implications of the new study are given.

The perspective, entitled Retail Sales of Alcohol and the Risk of Being a Victim of Assault, can be found here:

Citations:
Ray JG, Moineddin R, Bell CM, Thiruchelvam D, Creatore MI, et al. (2008) Alcohol Sales and Risk of Serious Assault. PLoS Med 5(5): e104 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050104

Bennetts R, Seabrook R (2008) Retail Sales of Alcohol and the Risk of Being a Victim of Assault. PLoS Med 5(5): e108 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050108