The socioeconomic distribution of alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour in England and Wales

The socioeconomic distribution of alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour in England and Wales

This research, undertaken by researchers at the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), used data made available via the Office for National Statistics (ONS)Secure Research Service (SRS), which is being expanded and improved with ADR UK funding.

Alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour (ASB) place a significant burden on the public and emergency services. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) figures show that almost two of every five (39%) violent crimes in 2017/18 were committed under the influence of alcohol, while the majority of the 13,000 Penalty Notices for Disorder issued for non-notifiable offences in England and Wales in 2017 were related to drunk and disorderly behaviour. 

Inequalities in alcohol-related health harms have been repeatedly identified. However, the socioeconomic distribution of alcohol-related violence, including subtypes like alcohol-related domestic violence, and of alcohol-related ASB, remain under-examined.

To analyse the socioeconomic status (SES) distribution of alcohol-related violence and ASB, this study, led by Lucy Bryant at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, used CSEW data to:

  • Create and compare prevalence and incidence rates of alcohol-related violence (and subcategories, domestic, stranger and acquaintance violence) and ASB, for different socioeconomic groups;
  • Perform binomial logistic regression analyses to confirm the effect of other risk factors associated with violence and ASB on any relationship identified.

Prevalence and incidence rates were calculated using survey variables indicating whether a person had experienced violence and, if so, what kind (domestic, stranger or acquaintance) and whether the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol, along with three SES variables (total household income; housing tenure; and respondent’s occupation).

Key findings  

Findings show lower socioeconomic groups experience higher prevalence rates of alcohol-related violence overall, higher incidence and prevalence rates for alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence and are more likely to experience alcohol-related ASB weekly or more often. Regression results show that SES remains a significant predictor for experiencing alcohol-related violence overall, particularly alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence; the same analysis for ASB is ongoing.

Research impact

These findings suggest provision of public-funded domestic violence services must be urgently revisited, alongside the potential of alcohol pricing and availability interventions to disproportionately benefit lower SES groups.  

This work highlights the need to reassess the provision and distribution of public-funded domestic violence services, and there are many imminent opportunities where this work can influence policy on this subject. There has been an increased focus on the harms of domestic violence within Parliament recently (the Domestic Violence Bill as perhaps the most notable example), and this research has already been raised in these discussions.

The findings of this research have been considered by the Commission on Alcohol Harm chaired by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and are included in their upcoming report, ‘An Inquiry into the Effects of Alcohol on Society’. The distribution of alcohol-related domestic violence uncovered in this work has also been raised in the House of Lords.

The research makes a notable contribution to our understanding of the unequal burden that alcohol places on the lowest SES groups. This contributes to a growing international field of research relating to alcohol's harms to others, which, working globally, is steadily building momentum for significant policy action from governments on alcohol harm.

The research was commended in the ONS Research Excellence Awards 2020.

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