People who live close to an on-site alcohol outlet, such as a bar, are more likely to engage in risky alcohol behavior, while people who live further away have a lower chance of dangerous drinking.

The finding was published in the journal Addiction and came from a Finnish study which examined whether how far a person lives from an alcohol outlet has an impact on risky drinking behavior.

The researchers analyzed data consisting of the locations of licensed on-site alcohol outlets between 2000 and 2008, which was taken from the alcohol licence register, maintained by Valvira (National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health).

They then reviewed data on alcohol consumption from surveys taken from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s (FIOH) Public Sector study from 2000 to 2009. More than 78,000 people filled out at least one survey and over 55,000 took at least two surveys.

The team found that people who lived less than a kilometer away from a bar or other on-site alcohol outlet had a 13% higher chance of heavy alcohol use compared to those who lived more than a kilometer away.

When a people changed the location of their house between the two study surveys, the likelihood changed:

  • a shorter distance raised the likelihood of risky drinking by 17%
  • a longer distance decreased the likelihood by 17%

This research is one of the first to examine the effect of a change in distance from an alcohol outlet on drinking behavior, explained Jaana Halonen, PhD, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

The authors concluded that people have a higher chance of consuming alcohol if they live close to an on-site alcohol outlet.

After the price of alcohol decreased in 2004, the alcohol-induced death rate of males and females living alone increased dramatically, explained Professor Jussi Vahtera from Turku University.

This current research supports the idea that easy access to alcohol raises dangerous alcohol use among the working population, which may cause serious public health issues, shorter careers, and weakened work ability.

Over the last two decades, alcohol-related diseases and alcoholic poisoning have doubled among the Finnish working-age residents. This population group has higher death rates due to alcohol consumption than of coronary disease.

Written by Sarah Glynn