#PHTwitJC 25: Does alcohol price affect drinking behaviour?

On Thursday 23rd May at 8pm #PHTwitJC will be discussing this paper:

A C Wagenaar et al (2009) Effects of beverage alcohol price and tax levels on drinking: a meta-analysis of 1003 estimates from 112 studies, Addiction, 104, 179–190 PDF

Why is alcohol a public health issue?

The misuse of alcohol – whether as chronically heavy drinking, binge-drinking or even moderate drinking in inappropriate circumstances (e.g. operating machinery, on medication) – not only poses a threat to the health and wellbeing of the drinker, but also to family, friends,  communities and wider society through such problems as crime, anti-social behaviour and loss of productivity. It is also directly linked to a range of health issues such as high blood pressure, mental ill-health, accidental injury, violence, liver disease and sexually transmitted infection.

There are various options to try and reduce alcohol misuse including individual approaches (such as support services to identify and help people with alcohol related problems), education (such as the Know Your Limit, and Change4 Life ‘sneaky drinks’ adverts), through to licensing, regulation and legislation.  Setting a minimum-price for alcohol has recently been implemented in Scotland (50 p per unit), and is currently being considered as an option to reduce alcohol misuse in the rest of the UK.

For further information:

Paper Summary:

  • Method: The authors did a systematic review of studies which examined the relationship between measures of beverage alcohol tax or price level, and alcohol sales or self-reported drinking (n = 122 studies found)
  • Analysis: Partial correlations were calculated for each major model or subgroup reported within each study.  Random effects models were used to combine studies for inverse variance.
  • Results: Meta-analytical results showed a relationship which was statistically significant (p<0.001). Aggregate-level r = -0.17 for beer, -0.30 for wine, -0.29 for spirits and -0.44 for total alcohol.

The authors concluded:

A large literature establishes that beverage alcohol prices and taxes are related inversely to drinking.  Effects are large compared to other prevention policies and programs. Public policy that raise prices of alcohol are an effective means to reduce drinking

Discussion Points:

All are welcome to join the discussion at the Twitter Hashtag #PHTwitJC. If you have not joined a Twitter chat before, please see the ‘about’ tab above for some tips.

  1. Were the aims of this study clear? (consider the population, outcome measures, intervention)
  2. Was the systematic review comprehensive? (consider research designs included, inclusion and exclusion criteria, would all relevant studies have been identified?)
  3. Were any adjustments made for study size or quality? (if appropriate)
  4. Do you believe the results? Could anything else explain these findings? (Consider whether the results are due to chance, bias, confounding or the truth?)
  5. What implications do the findings have for public health practice & policy? Do you agree with the authors conclusions?
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