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Lots of Local Bars Means Lots of Local Domestic Violence

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

The more bars in a neighborhood, the more incidents of domestic violence that require medical treatment, according to a new study from the Prevention Research Center.

Senior researcher Carol Cunradi and her colleagues went through data collected about various neighborhoods in California, taking into consideration the number of bars, liquor stores, grocery stores, and restaurants that sold alcohol per square mile. They tried to find correlations between these numbers and the numbers of visits to local emergency rooms centers by people in the neighborhood. They found that the density of bars was associated with emergency room visits related to violence between adult partners.

"The take-home message is that environmental factors, such as alcohol outlet density, affect intrapersonal violence, resulting in emergency room visits," said Dr. Cunradi. "However, the absence of individual level data do not allow us to determine the precise mechanisms that link an increase of one bar per square mile with a 3% likelihood increase of intrapersonal violence/emergency room visits in a given ZIP code. There is nonetheless research evidence linking bar attendance with aggressive behavior, both in and out of the bar. Additional research is needed to investigate how far density results in increased risk for intrapersonal violence-related emergency department visits."

The research team found no correlation between the numbers of local ER visits and the number of restaurants selling liquor in the area. Dr. Cunradi said they believe the reason is the context surrounding these two types of establishments is different. Families and couples are more likely to go to restaurants, whereas bars are primarily frequented by men.

"There is a large literature linking bar attendance, but not restaurants that serve alcohol, with aggression," she said.

Professor Richard Scribner, a professor of alcohol research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, said this study indicates that doctors should become familiar with their patients’ neighborhood environments.

"Brief motivational interventions, especially when conducted by healthcare professionals, has been shown to be effective in reducing problem drinking among the abusing population," Dr. Scribner said.

The study appears in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.