More Liquor Stores, More Cases of Domestic Violence?

More Liquor Stores, More Cases of Domestic Abuse

11/19/02 PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Health) - Domestic violence in a neighborhood may rise as the number of liquor licenses in the area increases, new study findings suggest. The current study backs up previous reports linking alcohol to domestic violence, study author Dr. Hsieng-Teh Su of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, told Reuters Health.

As such, she noted that reducing the incidence of domestic violence in one area may be as simple as spreading out the stores that are allowed to sell alcohol. "I don’t think you could say that liquor license, you know, alcohol, is the only factor in domestic violence," Su said. "But it’s contributory. So as many factors as we can help to minimize, the better for violence and crime."

Su and her team presented their findings here last week during the 130th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (news - web sites).

Approximately 800,000 incidents of domestic abuse are reported in the US each year, and experts estimate that only half of all cases are ever reported. Although many factors can contribute to domestic violence, previous studies in rodents have found that those given alcohol become more aggressive, and other research has shown that increasing the availability of alcohol in one area increases sales and consumption of the product.

In their study, Su and her colleagues compared the density of liquor stores in Baltimore County, Maryland, to the rate of reports of domestic violence—physical, sexual or psychological—in that same region. They found that, on average, 12.3 reports of domestic violence were recorded by police each year for every 1,000 people. The region contains 673 licensed liquor stores, or 1.3 stores for every 1,000 people.

Even after accounting for socioeconomic factors that could influence domestic violence, Su and her team discovered that a doubling of the density of liquor stores was associated with a 9% increase in the rate of reported domestic violence.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Su admitted that limiting the number of stores that can sell alcohol in one particular region may be difficult, but for areas where domestic violence is a particularly serious problem, this technique may be worth trying.

"Maybe one of the ways (to reduce domestic violence) is to restrict the availability of alcohol, I think," Su said. "But that’s kind of hard so, we’ll see."

By Alison McCook