- Experiences of alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour (ASB) are not evenly distributed across society. Lower socioeconomic groups experience higher prevalence rates of alcohol-related violence overall, higher incidence and prevalence rates for alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence, and are more likely to experience alcohol-related ASB weekly or more often.
- When other violence risk factors such as age are taken into account, socioeconomic status (SES) remains a significant predictor for experiencing alcohol-related violence overall, particularly alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence.
- These research findings, which have influenced parliamentary debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill, demonstrate that the provision of publicly-funded domestic violence services must be urgently revisited, alongside interventions related to alcohol pricing and availability.
Alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour (ASB) place a significant burden on the public and emergency services. Two of every five (42%) violent crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol each year (figures taken from 2019/20), and the majority of 13,000 Penalty Notices for Disorder issued for non-notifiable offences in England and Wales in 2017 related to drunk and disorderly behaviour.
Those belonging to the lowest socioeconomic groups may be more likely to experience these incidents. Socioeconomic inequalities have been repeatedly identified in other alcohol-related harms, such as health outcomes (the lowest SES groups experience higher levels of alcohol-related mortality and ill-health despite drinking less on average). Despite this, the socioeconomic distribution of alcohol-related violence and ASB remains under examined, particularly analysis drawing out patterns in subtypes of alcohol-related violence such as alcohol-related domestic violence.
This research therefore fills a vital evidence gap by conducting analysis which examines these distributions; in alcohol-related violence and alcohol-related ASB, as well as in sub-types, alcohol-related domestic, stranger and acquaintance violence. These findings were published first in a report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies and expanded on in a journal article in PLOS ONE.
First, prevalence and incidence rates were created and compared for different socioeconomic groups, for alcohol-related violence (and subcategories, domestic, stranger and acquaintance violence) and ASB. Then, binomial logistic regression analyses were used to test whether other risk factors associated with violence and ASB had any effect on the relationships identified.
To identify experiences of alcohol-related violence, the project used survey variables indicating whether a person had experienced violence in the last year, and if so, what kind (domestic, stranger or acquaintance) and whether the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol. Alongside this, three SES variables (total household income; housing tenure; and respondent’s occupation) were used to create prevalence and incidence rates for each SES group. Analysis was repeated with each SES measure in order to triangulate findings and avoid limitations associated with any single SES measure.
Binary logistic regression analyses were then performed. In each of these, one of the three measures of SES was used as an independent variable, against one of four binary violence outcome variables (experienced alcohol-related violence overall; experienced alcohol-related domestic violence; experienced alcohol-related stranger violence; experienced alcohol-related acquaintance violence, all in the last year) as dependent variables. Risk factors for violent victimisation were controlled for; respondent age, sex, and night-time economy attendance, as well as whether the respondent had a disability, and whether they lived in an urban or rural setting. The same regression analyses are under development for ASB.
Data used from the UK Data Service collection
Preliminary research for this project used the open ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales dataset for 2016/17, accessed via the UK Data Service.
The published research used ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales data, pooled from five years (2013/14-2017/18) to increase the reliability and accuracy of results (n=174,178), accessed through the ONS Secure Research Service.
Lower socioeconomic groups experience higher prevalence rates of alcohol-related violence overall
When measuring SES by either household income or employment, the lowest SES groups experienced the highest prevalence rates of alcohol-related violence; 1.07% for those in households earning £19,999 and under compared to 0.78% for those in households earning £40,000 and above, and 1.01% for the group ‘Never worked and long term unemployed’ compared to 0.64% for those in managerial occupations.
Lower socioeconomic groups experience higher incidence and prevalence rates of alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence
Whether measuring socioeconomic status by income, housing tenure, or employment, prevalence rates for alcohol-related domestic violence were highest for the lowest socioeconomic group. When measuring by household earnings and housing tenure, incidence rates were also highest for the lowest socioeconomic group. When measuring SES through housing tenure, the disparity in incidence rates was particularly dramatic – the lowest SES group (social renters, 12.13 incidents per 1000 people) had an incidence rate more than 14 times as high as the highest SES group (owners, 0.85 incidents per 1000 people).
The lowest socioeconomic groups experienced the highest prevalence rate of alcohol-related acquaintance violence, and the highest incidence rates, except when SES was measured by housing tenure; here, social renters’ incidence rate was not as high as that of private renters, but still was higher than the most advantaged SES group, owners (social renters, 10.72 incidents per 1000 people compared to owners, 3.09 incidents per 1000 people).
Socioeconomic status remains a significant predictor for experiencing alcohol-related violence overall, particularly alcohol-related domestic and acquaintance violence, when controlling for other known violence risk factors.
As identified in the published PLOS ONE journal article. For example, social renters are more than three and a half times as likely to experience alcohol-related domestic violence than home owners [OR = 3.678, 95% CI = (3.641-3.715)].
High frequency alcohol-related anti-social behaviour is more commonly experienced by lower socioeconomic status groups
As identified in the IAS published report, almost one in ten (8.79%) people experienced alcohol-related ASB in the last year, and there was no SES patterning in experiences of this. However, a greater proportion of those in the lowest socioeconomic groups who had ever experienced alcohol-related ASB, experienced this weekly or more often; social renters (50.4%), those in households earning £19,999 and under (46%), and those unemployed (55.1%), compared to homeowners (28.4%), those earning £40,000 and more (24.7%), and those in managerial occupations (27.9%) respectively.
Regression analysis examining these patterns, controlling for other risk factors, is ongoing.
Recommendations for policy
The findings of our work have clear implications for both violence and alcohol policy decisions.
First, this work identified that dramatic disparities exist in experiences of alcohol-related domestic violence. Incidence rates for this amongst the lowest SES groups were as much as 14 times as high as for others, while prevalence rates were as much as five times as high. This suggests that the provision of publicly-funded domestic violence services must be urgently revisited.
Secondly, research has repeatedly linked alcohol’s price and availability with rates of violence at the local and population level. Others have also identified through modelling that alcohol-related health inequalities can be reduced through alcohol pricing interventions. Given this, our findings of similar inequalities in experiences of victimisation suggest alcohol pricing and availability interventions might disproportionately benefit lower SES groups. This should be investigated by researchers and policymakers.
The research has made a notable contribution to understanding of the unequal burden that alcohol places on lower SES groups. It has also raised awareness, both in parliament and the wider academic field, of the urgent necessity of interventions and policies to protect these vulnerable groups. Key impacts include:
Informing the Commission on Alcohol Harm inquiry
The research fed into an inquiry by the Commission on Alcohol Harm, chaired by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, which aimed to examine the need for a new alcohol strategy in England. Written evidence submitted by Lightowlers, which summarises the key research findings from Crime Survey for England and Wales data, is quoted and cited in the Commission’s final report and informs their discussion of alcohol harm and social inequality (see pp. 29-30).
Evidence submitted by Lightowlers and the Institute of Alcohol Studies is also cited in the Commission’s discussion of alcohol licensing and public health (p. 32). Recommendations put forward by Bryant and Lightowlers in their research, regarding reducing alcohol availability and increasing alcohol prices, are echoed in two of the Commission’s recommendations on reducing hours of sale and increasing alcohol duty and prices (see pp. 33, 38).
Influencing parliamentary debate
The research has influenced parliamentary debate on the Government’s approach to tackling domestic abuse as part of their Covid-19 strategy. On 29 April 2020, Baroness Finlay drew on the key research finding – that alcohol-related violence victimisation is ‘disproportionately clustered in the lowest socioeconomic groups’ – to support her call for the Government to make data on alcohol-fuelled domestic violence during lockdown available to enable better understanding of alcohol harms during the pandemic.
The research was also used to support debate in the House of Lords on the Domestic Abuse Bill (25 January 2021), specifically on proposed amendments regarding the appointment of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Baroness Finlay used key statistics from the research – that instances of alcohol-related domestic violence are ‘fourteenfold’ in lower socioeconomic groups, and that the prevalence rate of alcohol-related domestic violence is ‘five times higher’ among the most disadvantaged groups compared to the least disadvantaged – to demonstrate the scale and importance of the Commissioner’s role in tackling domestic abuse.
The research has raised further awareness about the need for robust policymaking to tackle alcohol harm. On 8 February 2021, a written question, tabled by Labour MP Dan Carden, was put to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, regarding her assessment of the findings of the Institute of Alcohol Studies report and the implications for her policies on alcohol, violence, and anti-social behaviour.
Raising awareness and enhancing academic debate
The research was presented at the British Society of Criminology (BSC) annual conference (online), 7-9 July 2021, as part of the ‘Alcohol-related violence and harm: a social justice challenge’ thematic panel. As such, it has enhanced debate about alcohol harm and increased international awareness of the role alcohol can play in domestic violence.
In recognition of the quality of its impact, the Institute of Alcohol Studies research project was ‘commended for collaboration and impact’ in the ONS Research Excellence Awards 2020.
Read the research
- Bryant, L. 2020. Inequalities in victimisation: alcohol, violence, and anti-social behaviour. London: The Institute of Alcohol Studies.
- Bryant, L. and Lightowlers, C., 2021. The socioeconomic distribution of alcohol-related violence in England and Wales. PLoS one, 16(2), pp. 1-18.
Related links / publications
- An earlier version of this case study appeared on ADR’s website
- Institute for Alcohol Studies (IAS) blog: Inequalities in alcohol-related violence victimisation and what we should do about it
- IAS video presentation: Alcohol and inequalities in victimisation
- Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) blog: We need to change how we approach alcohol-related violence
- London School of Economics (LSE) Impact blog: Inequalities in alcohol-related violent victimisation: what can we do?
- British Criminology Society poster presentation: The socioeconomic distribution of alcohol-related violence
- University of Liverpool news article: Social renters 14 times more likely than homeowners to be victims of alcohol-related domestic violence
Research funding and partners
The Institute of Alcohol Studies is an independent body bringing together evidence, policy and practice from home and abroad to promote an informed debate on alcohol’s impact on society, with a purpose to advance the use of the best available evidence in public policy decisions on alcohol.
The University of Liverpool is one of the UK’s leading centres for sociology, social policy and criminology. It is home to the Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research.
This work was produced using statistical data from ONS. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.
Data used in publications:
- Office for National Statistics. Crime Survey for England and Wales 2013–2014. 3rd Edition ed. London: UK Data Service; 2020.;
- Office for National Statistics. Crime Survey for England and Wales 2014–2015. 2nd Edition ed. London: UK Data Service; 2020.;
- Office for National Statistics. Crime Survey for England and Wales 2015–2016. 2nd Edition ed. London: UK Data Service; 2020.;
- Office for National Statistics. Crime Survey for England and Wales 2016–2017. 2nd Edition ed. London: UK Data Service; 2020.;
- Office for National Statistics. Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017–2018. 2nd Edition ed. London: UK Data Service; 2020.