Jake Najman, University of Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre director. Photo Sherele Moody / APN NewsDesk
Jake Najman, University of Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre director. Photo Sherele Moody / APN NewsDesk Sherele Moody

More grog in the town, more violence at home: research

IT'S the volatile mix that's destroying hundreds of Australian families every day.

A propensity for aggression combined with an unhealthy addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling, fracturing relationships with often devastating consequences.

According to a recent study, domestic violence increases when the number of pubs in a local government area is more than two per 1000 residents.

The NSW Bureau of Crime, Statistics and Research (BoCSAR) report looked at the relationship between the density of liquor outlets and violence across 147 council areas in NSW, and found the level of violence climbed when there were high numbers of alcohol outlets.

BoCSAR director Dr Don Weatherburn said there was a complex relationship between the two.

"The critical relationship appears to be that between hotels and violence, but the relationship is not straightforward," he said.

"Up to a density of two hotels per 1000 residents, the increase in violence is modest.

"Beyond that point it seems to increase rapidly."

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A 2004 Australian Institute of Criminology report showed booze plays a part in one-third of family violence attacks.

The figures are no surprise to Professor Jake Najman, chairman of the Queensland Coalition for Action on Alcohol.

Prof Najman, also the director of the Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre at the University of Queensland, said addiction and violence often went hand in hand.

"One of the effects of addiction is to economically destroy families," Prof Najman said.

"This tends to generate a degree of conflict, which is often associated with violent behaviour.

"Alcohol is one of the strongest known predictors of domestic violence."

Despite its sedative nature, Prof Najman said booze lowered people's inhibitions, leading to behaviour they might not engage in when sober.

But he said societal norms also played a part.

"Alcohol is a sedative and a tranquilliser so it should make you quiet and relaxed - it shouldn't lead to violent behaviour," he said.

"But one of the things alcohol does is it disinhibits - in a sense it gives you permission to do things you might otherwise not do.

"There is nothing biologically in alcohol that makes you violent, but we live in a society where if you're drunk it's almost a license to behave in an anti-social kind of way."

Studies across the world have shown increasing the cost of booze lowers alcohol-related violence.

"If you reduce the amount that people drink, that will lead to a reduction in violence - there is good evidence that this is exactly what will happen," Prof Najman said.

"For example if look at research in Newcastle, in Geelong and in a number of countries where they've increased the taxes on alcohol, they've not only reduced consumption - they've reduced the number of violent and criminal episodes." 



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