Home > A spatial examination of alcohol availability and the level of disadvantage of schools in Ireland.

Doyle, Anne ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2776-3476, Foley, Ronan and Houghton, Frank (2024) A spatial examination of alcohol availability and the level of disadvantage of schools in Ireland. BMC Public Health, 24, (795), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-024-18261-y.

External website: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles...

Background: The availability of alcohol is a major factor in underage drinking and according to the alcohol harm paradox, those living in more deprived communities are more susceptible to the negative consequences of alcohol use, despite drinking the same or less than those from more affluent areas. Alcohol availability within the vicinity of the home or school normalises alcohol for schoolchildren. For the first time in the Republic of Ireland, this study examines the number of premises licensed to sell alcohol within 300 m of all schools in Ireland and differences in this number between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged schools. 

Methods: Using publicly available data from the Department of Education and Revenue, the addresses of all schools (n = 3,958) and all premises with at least one liquor licence (n = 14,840) were geocoded and analysed using the Geographic Information System software, Quantum GIS (QGIS). Schools were identified by their disadvantaged classification using the HP Pobal Deprivation Index and the number of liquor licences within 300 m of each school type was examined. To test for significant differences between schools’ level of disadvantage, a combination of Mann-Whitney U tests, Kruskal-Wallis tests and Dunn-Bonferroni tests were used. 

Results: There was a mean of two licenced premises within 300 m of all schools in Ireland, but when disadvantaged schools were compared to non-disadvantaged schools, there was a significantly higher number of licenced premises around disadvantaged schools (p < .001). Primary schools are further classified according to their level of disadvantage and the results indicated that those schools classified as the most disadvantaged had a significantly greater number of liquor licences within 300 meters (p < .001). There was no significant difference in density of licenced premises when comparing disadvantaged secondary schools with non-disadvantaged secondary schools (p = .705). 

Conclusion: Ireland is considering increasing alcohol availability through the Sale of Alcohol Bill, 2022. However, this analysis indicates already problematic numbers of licenced premises within close proximity of schools in Ireland. It is essential that the harms associated with alcohol availability are considered, especially for those living and attending school in disadvantaged communities, where higher numbers of licenced premises were identified.

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