Violent crime fall 'linked to decline in binge drinking'

Alcohol has become less affordable since 2008, researchers say

Increasing alcohol prices and a decline in binge drinking may be partly behind a 12 percent fall in reported injuries from violent crime in England and Wales, researchers said on Wednesday.

The number of people who sought hospital treatment for injuries from serious violence fell to 234,509 last year -- 32,780 fewer than in 2012 -- the report by Cardiff University said.

Admissions have decreased steadily every year since 2001, except in 2008 when there was a 7 percent increase, according to data collected from 117 emergency departments, minor injury units and walk-in centres.

Cases of violence-related injuries were most frequent on Fridays and Saturdays.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, lead author of the study and director of the violence and society research group at the university, said the decline in affordability of alcohol since 2008, when the financial crisis hit, could be a factor in the continued decline.

"Binge drinking has become less frequent, and the proportion of youths who don't drink alcohol at all has risen sharply. Also, after decades in which alcohol has become more affordable, since 2008 it has become less affordable.

"For people most prone to involvement in violence, those aged 18 to 30, falls in disposable income are probably an important factor."

He said joint efforts by the police, NHS and local authorities could also have played a role in stemming violent crime, adding: "Violence has fallen more in regions where this is best organised."

The university's research tallies with trends highlighted by the Crime Survey of England and Wales which showed a 13 percent decrease in violent crime in the 12 months to September 2013.

The government last year dropped plans to set a minimum price of 45p per unit for alcohol in England and Wales.

However under new rules that came into effect earlier this month some types of alcoholic drinks, including lager and cider, will be subject to minimum prices.

A recent study by Sheffield University concluded that a minimum price of 45 per unit would lead to 860 fewer deaths a year and cut hospital admissions among heavy-drinkers but only have a slight effect on moderate drinkers.