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14 March 2011 | PR 11/27

Study questions long-term impact of economic conditions, justice policy and beer consumption on violent crime

Beer consumption has been a more significant contributory factor in incidences of aggravated assault over a forty year period in England and Wales than either economic hardship or tougher penalties, according to research by Loughborough University’s School of Business and Economics.

The findings have emerged from a study by Dr George Saridakis into the long-term impact of economic conditions, deterrence policies and beer consumption on different categories of violent crime.

In it he examines the wide-spread belief that people are more likely to be driven to commit a violent offence if they are living in economic hardship and are deterred by tougher justice.

For the paper, which was recently published in the Journal of Applied Statistics, Dr Saridakis examined data recorded between 1960 and 2000 in England and Wales. He used statistical techniques that allowed him to estimate the long-term determinants of violent crime, providing further insight into the issue – previous studies have mainly focused on short-term factors or looked primarily at data from the US.

The term ‘violent crime’ encompasses several types of offences, including murder, manslaughter, rape and aggravated assault, with aggravated assault being the most prevalent offence when the data is aggregated.

Dr Saridakis’ study revealed that while unemployment and deterrent measures, such as conviction and imprisonment rates, have a significant long-term impact on aggravated assault, the effect of beer consumption was more significant.

“The finding about the impact of beer consumption is interesting since you would probably expect it only to have a short-term effect on aggravated assault. It may be that beer consumption is directly related to social factors, such as alienation or lack of opportunities, but further work would be needed to explore this association,” says Dr Saridakis.

“The findings from this study suggest that efforts to reduce beer consumption should be viewed as an integral part of crime prevention plans, as well as health strategies. However, the impact of any intervention on aggravated assault may take time to have an effect because of the close association of drinking with cultural and social characteristics,” Dr Saridakis added.

Interestingly, when looking at more serious types of violent crime, including murder, manslaughter and rape, Dr Saridakis found that deterrence measures, economic conditions and beer consumption had no long-term effect on incidences of these types of offence.

“These findings suggest that perhaps the incentive-based economic model, and as a result costly deterrence-based policies, may not be an appropriate framework for explaining and tackling serious violent crime in the long-term,” says Dr Saridakis. “These types of violent crime may be better explained in the context of sociological and criminological theories of crime, or be better explored in the short-term."

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Hannah Baldwin
Head of PR
Loughborough University
T: 01509 222239
E: H.E.Baldwin@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

  1. The study examined only beer consumption and did not look at the impact of other alcoholic drink on violent crime.

  2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

    It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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