Alcohol and Violence

Studies have repeatedly found higher alcohol outlet density is associated with higher levels of violence.

  • More violence, including intimate partner violence1 and youth homicides2, tends to accompany more alcohol outlets.  This association has been found in urban areas, like Cincinnati, OH3; Philadelphia, PA4; and Norfolk, VA5 as well as suburban areas like Bloomington, IN6 among others.
  • A study using 2006-2010 Baltimore City police data found each increase in the number of alcohol outlets in the city was associated with a 2.2% increase in violent crime (i.e., rape, aggravated assault, homicide/manslaughter, and robbery), even after controlling for community disadvantage, percent African American, percent occupied housing, and drug arrests.7
  • Between 2002 and 2011, people who lived in neighborhoods with more off-premise alcohol outlets had 8% greater odds of committing alcohol-related suicide.  People who lived in neighborhoods with more on-premise alcohol outlets had 5% greater odds of committing alcohol-related suicide.  These relationships held even after adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, year of death, marital status, and method of suicide.8
  • Business hours matter: a study of New York’s alcohol outlets found for every 1 hour increase in weekly alcohol outlet business hours aggravated assaults and non-gun violence increased significantly, even after controlling for alcohol outlet density.9
  • Retail outlets with more shelf space devoted to single serve alcohol containers are associated with increased rates of violence.10
  • Research supports that alcohol advertising plays a role in causing sexual violence, independent of the racial/ethnic composition, social and economic characteristics, population, residential stability, poverty, and alcohol availability of the neighborhood where the advertisements are displayed.11


  • Each year in the US, there are 7,756 homicides attributable to (assumed to be caused by) alcohol, and 1,269 of these occur in persons younger than 21 years old.12
  • Alcohol is the most commonly reported drug used by homicide offenders.13
  • A meta-analysis combining self-report, case file, and toxicological data found 48% of homicide offenders drank right before the murder and 37% were intoxicated during the murder.14
  • A large portion of violent crime is committed by persons under the influence of alcohol.15 Between 2002 and 2008, 1 in 5 (21%) of persons serving time for a violent crime reported being under the influence when the crime occurred:16


  • 88% of male college rapists who used force to commit the rape also used alcohol or drugs to commit rape.  Additionally, college males who rape incapacitated women are more likely to drink right before the rape.17
  • Most perpetrators who commit incapacitated rape use alcohol to incapacitate their victims.18
  • A study of men age 21-35 found perpetrators drank before 61.2% of reported and sexual assaults, and perpetrators who drink before committing penetrative sexual assaults were significantly less likely to wear condoms.19
  • In a 2011 study of over 1,000 9th and 10th graders, alcohol use at baseline predicted dating violence perpetration 1 year later, even after controlling for exposure to parental intimate partner violence and dating violence at baseline.20
  • A meta-analysis found youth age 11-21 who binge drink have 47% greater odds of perpetrating dating violence and youth who drink problematically have over a 2-fold greater odds of perpetrating dating violence.21


  • A meta-analysis and systematic review concluded there is a “clear positive association” between alcohol consumption and physical and sexual violence for women.  Longitudinal data suggests this relationship is bidirectional, meaning that women who are victims of interpersonal violence tend to drink more and women who drink more are more likely to be victims of interpersonal violence.22
  • Intimate partner violence is more severe when one or both partners drink alcohol before the incident.23
  • In 2013, 1 in 10 (11.4%) current high school drinkers and 1 in 8 (13.6%) high school binge drinkers reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse. Drinkers are more than twice as likely to report this as non-drinkers.24
  • Robbery victims who drank before they were robbed had a 26-fold greater odds of being injured during the robbery as compared to robbery victims who did not drink before they were robbed.25
  • A 2015 meta-analysis found persons who abuse or are dependent on alcohol have an 86% greater odds of suicidal ideation, 213% greater odds of suicide attempt, and 159% greater odds of completed suicide.26
  • States that passed "zero tolerance" laws to reduce youth drinking-driving also experienced statistically significant reductions in suicide deaths among 15- to 20-year-olds, compared to states that did not pass such laws.27
  • Children with parents who abuse alcohol are two to three-times as likely to report emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or parental separation or divorce.  These children are also three to eight-times as likely to report intimate partner violence among their parents.28
  • Each year, there are 167 deaths and 12,292 years of potential life lost due to alcohol-related child maltreatment.12

Updated December 2015

Alcohol and Violence Fact Sheet (printer-friendly version)


1. Kearns, M. C., Reidy, D. E., & Valle, L. A. (2015). The Role of Alcohol Policies in Preventing Intimate Partner Violence: A Review of the Literature.  The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 76(1):21-30.

2. Parker R. N., Williams K. R., McCaffree K. J., Acensio, E. K., Browne, A., Strom, K. J., and Barrick, K. (2011). Alcohol Availability and Youth Homicide in the 91 Largest US Cities, 1984-2006. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(5):505-14.

3. Grubesic, T. H.& Pridemore, W. A. (2011). Alcohol Outlets and Clusters of Violence. International Journal of Health Geographics, 10:30.  Accessed November 7, 2015 at:

4. Grubesic, T. H., Pridemore, W. A., Williams, D. A., & Philip-Tabb, L. (2013). Alcohol Outlet Density and Violence: The Role of Risky Retailers and Alcohol-Related Expenditures. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 48(5):613-619.

5. White, G. F., Gainey, R. R., & Triplett, R. A. (2015). Alcohol Outlets and Neighborhood Crime: A Longitudinal Analysis. Crime & Delinquency, 61(6):851-872.

6. Snowden, A. J. & Pridemore, W. A. (2013). Alcohol and Violence in a Nonmetropolitan College Town: Alcohol Outlet Density, Outlet Type, and Assault. Journal of Drug Issues, 43(3):357-373.

7. Giesbrecht, N., Huguet, N., Ogden, L., Kaplan, M. S., McFarland, B. H., Caetano, R., Conner, K. R., & Nolte, K. B.  (2015). Acute Alcohol Use among Suicide Decedents in 14 US States: Impacts of Off-premise and On-premise Alcohol Outlet Density. Addiction, 110(2):300-307.

8. Jennings JM, Milam AJ, Greiner A, Furr-Holden CD, Curriero FC, Thornton RJ. Neighborhood alcohol outlets and the association with violent crime in one Mid-Atlantic city: The implications for zoning policy. Journal of Urban Health. 2014;91:62-71.

9. Schofield, T.P. & Denson, T.F. (2013). Alcohol Outlet Business Hours and Violent Crime in New York State.  Alcohol and Alcoholism, 48(3):363-369.  Accessed November 22, 2015 at:

10. Parker, R. N., McCaffree, K. J., & Skiles, D. (2011). The Impact of Retail Practices on Violence: The Case of Single Serve Alcohol Beverage Containers.  Drug and Alcohol Review, 30:496–504.

11. Parker, R. N., McCaffree, K. J., Alaniz, M. L., & Cartmill, R. J. Sexual Violence, Alcohol, and Advertising. In: Parker R, McCaffree K, editors. Alcohol and Violence: The Nature of the Relationship and the Promise of Prevention. Lexington Books; 2013. 13-30.

12. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Alcohol and Public Health: Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) Application, 2013. Accessed November 8, 2015 at:

13. Darke, S. (2010). The Toxicology of Homicide Offenders and Victims: A review. Drug and Alcohol Review, 29(2):202-215.

14. Kuhns, J. B., Exum, M. L., Clodfelter, T. A., & Bottia, M. C. (2014). The Prevalence of Alcohol-Involved Homicide Offending: A Meta-Analytic Review. Homicide Studies, 18(3):251-270.

15. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). Alcohol and Crime: Data from 2002 to 2008.  Accessed November 8, 2015 at:

16. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). Alcohol and Crime: Data from 2002 to 2008.  Accessed November 8, 2015 at:

17. Zinzow, H.M. & Thompson, M. (2015). Factors Associated with Use of Verbally Coercive, Incapacitated, and Forcible Sexual Assault Tactics in a Longitudinal Study of College Men. Aggressive Behavior, 41:34-43.

18. Abbey A & Jacques-Tiura AJ. (2011). Sexual assault perpetrators’ tactics: Associations with their personal characteristics and aspects of the incident. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26:2866–2889.  Accessed November 21, 2015 at:

19. Davis, K.C., Kiekel, P.A., Schraufnagel, T.J., Norris, J., George, W.H., & Kajumulo, K.F. (2012). Men’s Alcohol Intoxication and Condom Use during Sexual Assault Perpetration. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(14):2790–2806.

20. Temple, J. R., Shorey, R. C., Fite, P., Stuart, G. L., & Le, V. D. (2013). Substance Use as a Longitudinal Predictor of the Perpetration of Teen Dating Violence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(4):596-606. Accessed November 7, 2015 at:

21. Rothman, E.F., Reyes, L.M., Johnson, R.M. & LaValley M. (2011). Does the Alcohol Make Them Do It? Dating Violence Perpetration and Drinking Among Youth. Epidemiologic Reviews, 34:103-119.  Accessed November 22, 2015 at:

22. Devries, K. M., Child, J. C., Bacchus, L. J., Mak, J., Falder, G., Graham, K., Watts, C., & Heise, L. (2013). Intimate Partner Violence Victimization and Alcohol Consumption in Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Addiction, 109(3):379–391.

23. Graham, K., Bernards, S., Wilsnack, S. C., & Gmel, G. (2011). Alcohol May Not Cause Partner Violence but It Seems to Make It Worse: A Cross National Comparison of the Relationship Between Alcohol and Severity of Partner Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(8):1503–1523.  Accessed November 7, 2015 at:

24. Calculated from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey public use dataset available at:

25. Parker, R., McCaffree, K., Callannan, V., & Saltz, R. Alcohol and the Risk of Violent Victimization and Injury. In: Parker R, McCaffree K, editors. Alcohol and Violence: The Nature of the Relationship and the Promise of Prevention. Lexington Books; 2013. 13-30.

26. Darvishi, N., Farhadi, M., Haghtalab, T., & Poorolajal, J. (2015). Alcohol-Related Risk of Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempt, and Completed Suicide: A Meta-Analysis.  PLOS One, 10(5):e0126870. Accessed November 6, 2015 at:

27. Carpenter, C. (2004). Heavy Alcohol Use and Youth Suicide: Evidence from Tougher Drunk Driving Laws. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 23(4):831-842.

28. Anda, R. F., Whitfield, C. L., Felitti, V. J., Chapman, D., Edwards, V. J., Dube, S. R., & Williamson, D. F. (2002). Adverse Childhood Experiences, Alcoholic Parents, and Later Risk of Alcoholism and Depression.  Psychiatric Services, 53:1001-1009. Accessed November 7, 2015 at: