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Higher alcohol prices linked to drop in serious violence

A sharp decline in serious violence has been linked to alcohol becoming more expensive since 2008. 

Researchers from Cardiff University found that the number of people injured in serious violence dropped by 12% in 2013 compared to 2012 in England and Wales. 

An estimated estimated 234,509 people attended Emergency Departments (EDs), Minor Injury Units (MIUs) and Walk-in Centres in England and Wales for treatment following violence in 2013 - 32,780 fewer than in 2012.

There has been a fall each year in serious violence across England and Wales since 2001. However, there was a 7% increase in 2008. 

Lead author of the study and director of the violence and society research group at Cardiff University, Professor Jonathan Shepherd said: "Violence is falling in many Western countries and we don't know all the reasons why. In England and Wales, the growth of multi-agency violence prevention involving police, the NHS and local authorities may well be a factor; violence has fallen more in regions where this is best organised. Another probable explanation is changes in alcohol habits. Binge drinking has become less frequent, and the proportion of youth who don't drink alcohol at all has risen sharply. Also, after decades in which alcohol has become more affordable, since 2008 it has become less affordable. For people most prone to involvement in violence, those aged 18-30, falls in disposable income are probably an important factor.

"Continuing, substantial decreases in serious violence are welcome for citizens, communities and in combatting the fear of crime. They also decrease the costs of violence to health services and the criminal justice system and reduce pressures on hard pressed A&Es late at night at the weekend."

Serious violence affecting all age groups decreased in 2013 compared to 2012 including falls among youth (down 18%).

Males and females (down 19.1% and 14.1% respectively) and young adults (down 14%; males and females down 14.3% and 13.3% respectively).

The findings confirmed the demographic that those most at risk of serious violence-related injury continue to be males aged 18-30. Violence-related attendance at Emergency Departments was most frequent on Saturday and Sunday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) claim that the findings clearly show that a minimum unit price for alcohol should be introduced in the UK. 

Professor Sheila Hollins, chair of the BMA's Board of Science, said: "This makes the government's U-turn on minimum pricing, as well as their decision to scrap the alcohol escalator and reduce beer duty, all the more worrying.

"Alcohol misuse places serious strain on a number of already overstretched public services which is why doctors, the police and emergency services all support minimum unit pricing.

"Prevention is better - and cheaper - than cure, and if the government is serious about tackling alcohol related harm, it needs review its position on minimum unit pricing, which would reduce harm amongst the heaviest drinkers while leaving responsible drinkers largely unaffected."

The findings are available to view on the Cardiff University website