The research, conducted by University of Liverpool criminology lecturer Carly Lightowlers, found that people who drank “frequently and predominantly” with friends in pubs had the highest probability of perpetrating assault offences in the past 12 months.
The study, Heterogeneity in Drinking Practices in England and Wales and Its Association With Violent Behavior: A Latent Class Analysis, looked at data from more than 2,700 people aged 16 to 29 from England and Wales from the 2006 Offending Crime and Justice Survey.
The individuals were analysed based on how and where they chose to drink alcohol to find out whether different typologies of drinkers exist and how these are associated with incidences of assault.
From this, three classifications of drinkers emerged, linked to the probability of a person committing assault offences in the past 12 months.
The smallest group – around 20% – were classed as 'moderate drinkers'. They were characterised by low levels of drinking and had the lowest risk of perpetrating assault offences in the 12 months before they completed the survey.
Some 32% of people were classed as 'regular pub binge drinkers'. These people drank frequently and predominantly with friends in pubs. They had the highest probability of perpetrating assault offences in the past 12 months.
The largest group – around 48% – were classed as 'regular social drinkers'. They drank frequently but across a wider range of settings with a wider range of people. Their likelihood of committing assault was lower than the regular pub drinkers but higher than the moderate drinkers.
Minimum price still worthwhile
Lightowlers said that the study supported the notion that “drinking behaviour is influenced by the setting in which alcohol is consumed – which can then impact the likelihood of violent behaviour”, but pointed out that the research did not ascertain if violence that occurred did so under the influence of alcohol.
“It remains a possibility that people who are violent are more likely to binge drink, rather than the other way round,” she added.
“The findings suggest that generic campaigns to reduce drinking, such as the law that introduced a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in Scotland, are still worthwhile,” Lightowlers continued.
“But so are targeted interventions specific to the drinking context, for example, making sure staff in pubs and clubs do not serve people who are drunk, as well as limiting the availability of alcohol by restricting licences and pub trading hours.
"In England, research suggests that areas with more intense alcohol licensing policies have shown stronger declines in rates of violent crimes.
“This means that attempts to ameliorate alcohol-related violence ought to be specific to the context in which the drinking occurs, rather than just focusing on reducing drinking frequency or the amount of alcohol consumed.”
Licensing restriction concerns
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls stressed the research should be put into perspective, with fewer people drinking as a whole.
“It should be remembered that we are looking at a general decline in the number of people drinking and that pubs provide customers with supervised environments in which to drink,” she said. “Pub staff do refuse to serve drunk customers and schemes such as Best Bar None promote and share good practice among venues.
“Any action that looks to restrict licensing and limit pub hours would only affect when people drink in pubs, not how often. It would also fail to ignore the fact that around 70% of all alcohol purchased is consumed away from licensed premises.”
Earlier this month it was revealed that the number of people seriously injured as a result of drink-driving incidents has risen by 9% in a year.