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New research finds restricting alcohol trading hours substantially reduces violence

30 September:

Restricting alcohol trading hours can substantially reduce rates of violence and relaxing trading hours has the opposite effect, according to the first systematic review of alcohol trading hours and violence in more than five years.

The review, published today in the Sax Institute’s Public Health Research & Practice journal, analyses 21 separate studies on trading hours and alcohol-related harm from Australia and across the developed world.

“From reviewing the evidence, the message is clear − the more you restrict alcohol trading hours, the more you reduce violence,” said lead author Claire Wilkinson from Melbourne’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University.

“The findings of this systematic review are strong enough for us to recommend Governments make restrictions on late trading hours for bars and hotels, a central plank in any strategy to reduce late-night violence. We analysed 21 Australian and international studies for this review and the weight of evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of restricting alcohol trading hours in combating violence.

“A study from Newcastle for example, found a 37% reduction in assaults in the city between 10 pm and 6 am following the introduction of trading restrictions in 2008. In Sydney, assaults were down between 26% and 32%, following the NSW Government’s ‘last drinks’ and ‘lockout’ laws introduced in 2014.

“Evidence from abroad was also compelling. One Norwegian study found each one-hour reduction in trading hours was associated with a 16% drop in recorded assaults, and a Dutch study found a 34% increase in alcohol-related ambulance attendances following the extension of trading hours in two entertainment precincts in Amsterdam.”

There is less research literature examining the impact of changing trading hours for takeaway liquor sales, although the limited research points towards effectiveness. Two studies from Europe provide some evidence that reducing availability of packaged liquor late at night can reduce hospitalisations, particularly among young people.

The latest issue of the Sax Institute’s Public Health Research & Practice journal has a focus on alcohol consumption and its impact on public health. Guest Editor Dr Jo Mitchell, from the Centre for Population Health at NSW Health said the effects of alcohol consumption were far reaching.

“Alcohol kills more than 5600 Australians every year, impacting families and communities in every corner of the nation, and alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost more than $15 billion each year,” Dr Mitchell said.

“High-quality research into the impact, effect and treatment of alcohol is central to any strategy to tackle this public health issue. These papers in Public Health Research & Practice contribute to the evidence base and will be an important resource for those at the helm of public health decision making in Australia.”

Download the paper:  Impacts of changes to trading hours of liquor licences on alcohol-related harm: a systematic review 2005–2015

Public Health Research & Practice is a peer-reviewed, Medline-listed quarterly online journal published by the Sax Institute. Subscribe for free at

Please acknowledge the Sax institute’s Public Health Research & Practice as the source for any stories.

Other papers in this issue of Public Health Research & Practice include:

Proven medical treatments for alcohol dependence being prescribed in just 3% of cases (Read paper)

Doctors are prescribing medicines to treat alcohol dependence in just 3% of cases in Australia. This is despite such medicines being available on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

Phone coaching program to help people reduce alcohol consumption (Read paper)

A new evidence-based telephone coaching program has the potential to make a difference in helping people reduce their risky drinking in both the short- and the long-term.

Youth drinking in NSW at 20-year low (Read paper)

The number of young people (12-17) choosing to drink alcohol is at a 20-year low in NSW. This is due to a range of factors including a reduction in supply, taxation and, changes in leisure activities.

One in three NSW emergency department patients has an underlying drug or alcohol problem (Read paper)

One in every three patients presenting to NSW hospital emergency departments has an underlying drug or alcohol problem. Researchers say these figures highlight the scope for improving community health and saving healthcare dollars by investing in support and treatment services.

Can information on your genetic susceptibility to cancer change how you drink? (Read paper)  

Researchers are examining whether providing someone with information on their genetic susceptibility to alcohol-related cancers can motivate them to change their drinking behaviour.

The impact of living with loose-fill asbestos in the ACT (Read paper)

Research suggests mesothelioma rates have increased more in the ACT than most of the rest of Australia during the past two decades, however more information is needed on the health risks of living with loose-fill asbestos insulation, specialists say.

The battle against unproven breast cancer screening (Read paper)

The Cancer Council in Western Australia has described its campaign to fight unproven breast cancer screening, and stem the unregulated growth of alternative breast imaging services.

Assessing chronic disease health risk in workplaces (Read paper)

A health risk assessment tool for use in workplaces could help to refer workers identified as being at risk of chronic disease to healthy lifestyle programs.



Barry Dunning, Communications and media manager

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