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

Alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour place a significant burden on the public and emergency services. Between 2017 to 2018, almost two of every five (39%) violent crimes 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 related to drunk and disorderly behaviour.

Inequalities in alcohol-related health harms have been repeatedly identified, yet the socioeconomic distribution of alcohol-related violence, including subtypes like alcohol-related domestic violence, and of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour remain under-examined. This research therefore fills a vital evidence gap.

Data used

The ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) has measured crime since 1981. Alongside police recorded crime data (collected by the Home Office), the survey is a valuable source of information for the government about the extent and nature of crime. The nationally representative survey measures crime by asking members of the public about their experiences of crime over the previous 12 months. In this way, the survey records all types of crimes experienced, including those that may not have been reported to the police. It is important that the voices of those people who have and have not experienced crime are recorded, so that an accurate picture can be captured.

Methods used

The project, supported by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), used CSEW survey data to investigate the distribution of socioeconomic status of alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour.

Prevalence and incidence rates of alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour were calculated using survey variables covering a five-year period from 2013 to 2018 indicating:

  • whether a person had experienced violence, and if so, what kind (domestic, stranger or acquaintance),
  • whether the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol,
  • three socioeconomic status variables about the respondent: total household income; housing tenure; and occupation.

Research findings

Findings show that lower socioeconomic status groups experience higher prevalence rates of alcohol-related violence overall, higher incidence and prevalence rates for alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence. They are also more likely to experience alcohol-related anti-social behaviour at least once per week or more often.  The most disadvantaged groups experience prevalence rates up to five times that of the most advantaged group, and incidence rates as much as 14 times higher.

Results show that socioeconomic status remains a significant indicator for experiencing alcohol-related violence overall, particularly alcohol-related domestic violence and acquaintance violence. The same analysis for anti-social behaviour is ongoing.

Alcohol-related domestic violence prevalence rate by total household income.

Research impact

The research makes a notable contribution to our understanding of the unequal burden that alcohol places on the lower socioeconomic status groups. It feeds into the growing international field of research on the harm of alcohol, which is steadily building momentum for significant global policy action from governments on this matter.

There are opportunities where this research can influence policy and services in this area. The findings suggest that the provision and distribution of publicly-funded domestic violence services should be urgently reassessed and improved. Population-level action on the price and availability of alcohol, as well as improving the availability of alcohol treatment services, should be investigated for their potential to benefit disadvantaged groups. Finally, further research into the causes of the inequalities noted is essential.

This research has been raised in parliamentary discussions on the harms of domestic violence, for example, as part of formulating the forthcoming Domestic Violence Bill. The findings of this research have been considered by the Commission on Alcohol Harm, chaired by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff. They were also included in the February 2020 report from the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, ‘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.

Research outputs

Publications and reports

Blogs, news posts, and videos

Presentations and awards

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