Off-site outlets and alcohol-related harm
The National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF) recently released this research report into alcohol and violence at the 7th Australasian Drugs and Alcohol Strategy Conference in Brisbane.
Conducted by NDRI researchers, the aim of the study was to investigate the relationship between rates of reported assault, alcohol sales and numbers of licensed outlets in both Queensland and Western Australia. The research compared assault rates using the numbers of both on-site and off-site outlets within the local government areas (LGAs) of each state.
Counts of assault offences formed the dependent variable in all analyses. In Queensland, the key explanatory variables of interest were counts of outlets by major outlet types and level of total pure alcohol sales. For Western Australia, key explanatory variables included on and offsite outlet counts and alcohol sales. All models included a full accompaniment of potential demographic and socioeconomic confounders. Multivariate negative binomial regression models were created at local government area level based on location, type and time of assault, and victim age and gender.
No effect specific to counts of offsite outlets was found in Queensland models. A limitation that offsite alcohol sales were not able to be applied for Queensland may partly explain the lack of findings. Total volume of alcohol sales was able to be controlled for and it significantly predicted risk of assault in Queensland. For Western Australia, offsite alcohol sales predicted total number of assaults and all other dependent assault variables tested, with the exception of murder/manslaughter and assaults occurring at onsite outlets. The largest association was found for assaults occurring in the street. Numbers of offsite outlets and alcohol sales from onsite outlets in Western Australia showed no significant effects in any of the models tested.
The study has shown that offsite alcohol sales and total volume of alcohol sales within a region are important predictors of assault. On this basis, it is reasonable to conclude that policy decisions that ultimately increase total alcohol sales within a community are more likely to exacerbate, rather than ameliorate harms associated with alcohol. This warrants recommendation of a precautionary approach to future liquor licensing policy formulation and application in Australian jurisdictions.