A pioneering study in Australia has echoed findings overseas that drink promotions are the greatest predictor of alcohol-related violence – even more than intoxication.
A Melbourne study sought to identify key factors in inciting alcohol-fuelled incidents and aggression.
The work was to some degree prompted by statistics showing a large proportion of problems take place in a disproportionately small percentage of venues. One study found 25 per cent of incidents occurred in just three per cent of venues.
The study enlisted 18 experts (bar staff, licensees, security guards) to rate 45 Melbourne venues in terms of risk of aggression. These ratings “exhibited considerable consensus”.
Observations then took place at each venue Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, rating assorted aspects of the venue: maintenance and atmosphere, patron behaviour and demographic, security, music and marketing.
These rated attributes were then compared with the expert’s impressions to determine which best correlated with aggressive behaviour.
What was found to be the single most significant predictor was the prominence of alcohol promotions – even surpassing perceived intoxication.
The study said “Violence levels were consistently higher in venues where alcohol was promoted through measures such as excessively cheap drinks, extended happy hours, ‘buy two – get one free’ discounts, discounted alcoholic energy drinks, and so on”.
The observers did attempt to rate patron intoxication as its own factor, independent of any drink promotions, and found it “less strongly associated with aggression than [the] promotions”.
This study offered results in line with others overseas, adding weight to its otherwise potentially too subjective focus. They suggest that promotions contribute to “elevated in-venue aggression because they encourage people to drink more alcohol more quickly”.
Deeper still, the allure of promotions is likely also influenced by socio-economic and personality type factors, but the fact remains that discounted drinks bring increased risk to both patrons and the venue.
Venue characteristics next most associated with alcohol-related aggression were: level of rowdy behaviour, and the extent to which music contained aggressive or violent language.
The Melbourne study concludes that operators can effectively reduce the risk profile of their venue through relatively simple mediating actions to avoid these factors.
While this may benefit individual venues, it is but one insight into the psychology of why some sectors of the population are predisposed towards violence. It does, however, strengthen the argument that it is not actually the alcohol to blame, but the mindset of the individual.