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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 17:34 EDT

More Neighborhood Liquor Stores Brings More Violence

December 18, 2010

A new Australian study says that opening more neighborhood pubs and liquor stores could lead to more violence in local residents’ homes.

Lead researcher Michael Livingston of the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Center, in Fitzroy, Victoria, told Reuters Health in an e-mail that evidence is building that increased availability of alcohol can result in greater public violence.

“If a similar relationship existed for domestic violence then governments would be able to consider these effects when developing alcohol policies,” he said.

A 1990s U.S. study found that about one in four women and 7 percent of men have been raped or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, domestic partner or date.

Similar numbers are estimated for Australia, where 15 percent of women over the age of 15 reported to having experienced violence by a current or former partner.

Livingston identified 186 neighborhoods of 10,000 people or more around Melbourne, Australia to conduct the study.  

He monitored changes in the numbers of alcohol purveyors and police-recorded cases of domestic violence between 1996 and 2005, a period in which a great number of new liquor licenses were doled out.

Overall, the neighborhoods averaged about 5 domestic violence incidents annually for every 1,000 people.

The study found that this level of violence depends on the density of outlets selling alcohol.

Livingston wrote in the journal Addiction that rates were about 6 percent higher per 1,000 residents for each additional hotel or pub that allowed the sale of alcohol for both on- and off-premise consumption.

For outlets that only sold alcohol for drinking on site, like cafes, bars and nightclubs, the increase was 2 percent.

Adding one liquor store for every 1,000 residents in a neighborhood was linked to a nearly 30 percent increase in the rate of local domestic violence per 1,000 residents.

Livingston said that alcohol purchased from a liquor store is very likely to be consumed at home, where it could lead to heavy intoxication and subsequent aggression.

“Increasing the availability of alcohol carries with it a range of costs that need to be balanced against the benefits of competition and consumer convenience,” he said.

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