A research report published in Applied Economics has found that the number of patients with violence-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms is related to the price of beer.
The researchers examined admissions to 58 hospital accident and emergency departments over a five year period and found that as the price of beer increased, violence-related injuries decreased.
There are three main theories on why alcohol and violence are linked: i) due to the drug effects on the brain; ii) because people use alcohol as an excuse for violent behaviour; iii) because people who use alcohol might be more likely to be violent, perhaps due to personality factors like sensation-seeking, impulsivity or risk-taking.
Of course, these theories are not in competition and all the factors are likely to have some influence, but researchers are keen to find out how they interact to better understand the problem.
Interestingly, the Applied Economics study also looked at a number of other factors linked to violence and found that increases in poverty, unemployment, diversity of ethnic population, the summer months and major sporting events also independently predicted an increase in violence.
This combination of an economic and psychological approach to understand violence is particularly important for designing and implementing government or health service policies.
Cardiff University’s Violence and Society Research Group has an interesting history.
It was started by dentist and surgeon Prof Jonathan Shepherd who noticed the amount of facial glass injuries turning up in hospital.
Many turned out to be due to alcohol-fuelled violence and the Group’s research has shown that everything from glass type to availability of recycling facilities can reduce the number of injuries.
The research extended to include violence in general and now takes a comprehensive look at how both social and individual factors influence violent behaviour.