Drop in alcohol-related deaths by nearly a third follows minimum alcohol price increase of 10 percent

February 6, 2013, Wiley

A new study made available online today in Addiction shows that, between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of deaths caused by alcohol in British Columbia, Canada dropped more than expected when minimum alcohol price was increased, while alcohol-related deaths increased when more private alcohol stores were opened. The paper has significant implications for international alcohol policy.

The study was carried out by researchers from British Columbia, the westernmost province in Canada, using three categories of death associated with alcohol – wholly alcohol attributable (AA), acute, and chronic*, analysing across the time period against increases in government set minimum prices of alcohol drinks.

The study was complicated by another provincial policy which allowed partial privatisation of alcohol , resulting in a substantial expansion of alcohol stores. Previously, alcohol could only be sold directly to the public in government owned stores, unlike in Europe where it is widely available in , off-licences and petrol stations. The researchers therefore had to both control for the effects of the wider availability of alcohol, and assess what effect this measure had on .

The major finding was that increased minimum alcohol prices were associated with immediate, substantial and significant reductions in wholly AA deaths:

  • A 10% increase in the average for all was associated with a 32% reduction in wholly AA deaths
  • Some of the effect was also detected up to a year after minimum price increases
  • Significant reductions in chronic and total AA deaths were detected between two and three years after minimum price increases
  • A 10% increase in private liquor stores was associated with a 2% increase in acute, chronic, and total AA mortality rates

This overall drop in deaths was more than expected, and disproportionate to the size of the minimum price increase – a minimum price increase of 1% was associated with a mortality decline of more than 3%.

The authors suggest that the reason for the reduction in mortality is that increasing the price of cheaper drinks reduces the consumption of heavier drinkers who prefer these drinks. They note that other research has also suggested that impacts on some types of mortality may be delayed by one or two years after price increases.

Dr Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia and a lead author, said "This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinkers reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase. It is hard otherwise to explain the significant changes in alcohol-related deaths observed in British Columbia."

Explore further: Enhanced minimum-pricing strategy on alcohol could result in less harm for consumers

More information: Zhao J, Stockwell T, Martin G, Macdonald S, Vallance K, Treno A, Ponicki W, Tu A, and Buxton J. (2013) The relationship between changes to minimum alcohol prices, outlet densities and alcohol attributable deaths in British Columbia in 2002-2009. Addiction, 108: doi: 10.1111/add.12139

Related Stories

Enhanced minimum-pricing strategy on alcohol could result in less harm for consumers

October 19, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Consumers tend to switch to less potent alcoholic beverages when minimum prices are raised for cheap, strong drinks, new research from the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) ...

Alcohol pricing policies save lives and increase profits, experts say

December 10, 2012
Setting minimum prices for alcohol increases health and economic benefits, say international experts, who met today for a seminar on alcohol pricing and public health.

UK: Minimum alcohol price not set high enough

February 24, 2012
Following Prime Minister David Cameron's vow last week to tackle binge drinking, new research from Newcastle University has highlighted the need for a strong approach to alcohol pricing.

Minimum alcohol pricing shows 'significant impacts,' says expert

April 17, 2012
Government plans to impose a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol will have "significant impacts" including a 38,900 reduction in hospital admissions, a 1,149 reduction in deaths and a cut in alcohol consumption by 2.4%, ...

Alcohol abuse could kill around 210,000 people over the next 20 years, academic warns

February 21, 2012
A University of Southampton academic has warned the UK is on the ‘potential tipping point’ in the war against alcohol abuse and says failure to reform alcohol laws will result in 210,000 avoidable alcohol-related ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment

December 4, 2017
Many patients who are being treated for opioid addiction in a medication-assisted treatment clinic use marijuana to help manage their pain and mood symptoms.

For opiate addiction, study finds drug-assisted treatment is more effective than detox

November 23, 2017
Say you're a publicly insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.