Home > Alcohol pricing and criminal harm: a rapid evidence assessment of the published research literature.

Booth, Andrew and Meier, Petra and Shapland, Joanna and Wong, Ruth and Paisley, Suzy (2011) Alcohol pricing and criminal harm: a rapid evidence assessment of the published research literature. University of Sheffield.

PDF (Alcohol pricing and criminal harm) - Published Version

This rapid evidence assessment (REA) of the published research literature provides a specific Home Office focus after previous independent reviews on the effects of pricing and taxation on alcohol consumption and alcohol-associated harms. It looks specifically at the effects on crime-related outcomes.

The REA covers
• primary studies examining a direct association between alcohol pricing/taxation and crime–related outcomes (4,975 studies were reviewed and 36 papers met the inclusion criteria)
• review-level evidence for associations between pricing and consumption and between consumption and crime (58 reviews or meta-analyses)
• new primary research examining the association between pricing and consumption.

The latter two areas provided an update to the recent review by Booth et al. (2008). This report examines the first of the three areas, and attempts to answer the following research question: To what extent does the research evidence support a direct association between the price of alcohol and crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour?

Conclusions and points for consideration:
Evidence from this review is consistent with previous forecasts that levels of crime are reduced following tax/price increases (Purshouse et al., 2009). Significantly, more recent evidence from Scandinavia examined tax/price reductions.

This review concluded that it was not possible to demonstrate a symmetrical effect between the effects of price increases and corresponding effects from price reductions for specific crime-related outcomes. On the whole, US evidence is more supportive of links between alcohol price and crime than the more variable Scandinavian evidence base. The role of policy and cultural contexts in explaining inconsistent effects remains unclear. Few evaluations of actual price or tax changes in the UK have been carried out but several modelling studies are specific to England and Scotland. UK evaluation studies showed significant associations between lower alcohol prices and higher rates of hospital admissions for violence-related injuries.

Most studies support an association between higher alcohol taxation/pricing and decreased crime. Available evidence typically focuses on average patterns of consumption and is unable to clarify whether specific pricing policies are differentially related to patterns of drinking.

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