Archived: Alcohol outlets: why location matters for the health of disadvantaged communities

People from disadvantaged areas who live close to alcohol outlets rate their health as poorer than people who live in well-off areas who have the same access, the Prevention Centre’s Liveability Study has found.

Lead author Dr Hannah Badland and colleagues, from the University of Melbourne, examined the health of more than 3000 people in metropolitan Melbourne and mapped the location and density of alcohol outlets in their areas.

Dr Badland said the location and density of alcohol outlets had no impact on the long-term health of people in better-off communities, but it was a different story for disadvantaged communities.

Dr Hannah Badland
Dr Hannah Badland

“People in disadvantaged areas were more likely to rate their long-term health as poor if there was an on-licence alcohol outlet, such as a pub or restaurant, within 400 metres, or a bottle shop within 800 metres,” she said.

Policy need

The study, the first published results from the Liveability study, pointed to a need to further develop state policies to regulate the location of alcohol outlets to create safer and healthier communities, especially for disadvantaged communities.

“These policies would give policy makers and planners more teeth to say yes or no to applications for alcohol outlets because currently there’s limited information to guide what’s okay and what’s not, and where.”

Dr Badland said the study, published in Drug and Alcohol Review, was the first to measure the impact of the density of alcohol outlets on self-rated health.

“Most research to date has measured the density of alcohol outlets by looking at immediate impacts, such an injury and domestic violence, rather than a more comprehensive measure of long-term health across the community,” Dr Badland said.

“Self-rated health is a very stable measure of mental and physical health across the population, regardless of level of disadvantage.”

Reducing access a key strategy

While conducting the study, the research team discovered only a few state policies about where to locate alcohol outlets and none took the demographics of the region into account.

“Reducing access to alcohol is an important and cost-effective way to decrease alcohol consumption and associated harm, but it is not commonly used to control alcohol in Australia,” Dr Badland said.

“Instead, Australian strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm tend to focus on marketing and education interventions, and there is limited evidence internationally that these are the most effective strategies.”

The results are the first published results from the National Liveability Study, which is measuring the key factors that make our cities healthy and liveable.

– Marge Overs, Communications Manager