Density of outlets selling alcohol ‘linked to hospital admission rates’

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Hospital admissions for alcohol-related emergency care and chronic illness are significantly higher in areas with the most pubs, bars and clubs, research has found.

The density of restaurants and other outlets selling alcohol was also linked to admission rates in England, according to the study published in journal Addiction.

Authorities have been urged to consider the impact of local licensing decisions on hospitals in light of the research.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield analysed data from more than one million hospital admissions attributable to alcohol over a 12-year period.

Areas in England with the most pubs, bars and nightclubs had 22% higher hospital admission rates for chronic conditions linked to drinking, such as liver disease, compared with those with the lowest density of alcohol vendors.

They also had 13% higher admission rates for acute conditions, such as vomiting, caused by alcohol, the research found.

Lead author Ravi Maheswaran, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Sheffield, said: “The strongest link was between pubs, bars and nightclubs and admissions for alcoholic liver disease.

“We also observed an association between restaurants licensed to sell alcohol and hospital admissions, which we had not expected.

“This needs further investigation to establish if there is a causal link.”

Areas in England with the highest density of licensed restaurants had 9% higher rates of people requiring treatment for both acute and chronic conditions caused by alcohol, the research found.

Those with the most outlets such as hotels, casinos and sports clubs had 19% higher admission rates for severe alcohol-related illnesses.

There was just a modest link between supermarkets and hospital admissions, but rates of those requiring emergency treatment were 10% higher in places with lots of convenience stores, the research found.

Professor Maheswaran said: “Although we have observed clear associations between alcohol outlet densities and hospital admissions, our study cannot confirm if these associations are causally linked.

“However, there is emerging evidence from other studies suggesting that local licensing enforcement could reduce alcohol-related harms.”

Dr James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK, which funded the study, said: “Understanding the relationship between outlet density and alcohol hospital admissions is essential to reducing harm.

“Local licensing authorities, in particular, need to factor this information into their decisions.”

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