How to Build a Violent World in One Easy Step

Illustration for article titled How to Build a Violent World in One Easy Step

That alcohol causes many deaths every year is a fact widely-accepted by scientists and the public. But now a new study conducted at the University of Toronto suggests that there is a direct relationship between amount of alcohol sold in a given region, and the amount of violence in that region — regardless of whether the people involved in the violence have been drinking. As you can see from this chart the researchers devised, your chances of being assaulted in a given area generally increase as booze purchased in the last 24 hours increases.


For every 1,000 litres of alcohol sold in stores (there were no stats for what got sold in bars), numbers of violent assaults and deaths nearby increased by 13%. For young people, the risk increased by 21%. One could easily imagine a dystopian future where cities zone certain "undesirable" areas for more liquor stores, as a way of trimming down or crippling the population there.

What's particularly interesting about this study is how the researchers got their data. The Canadian province Ontario does an very accurate job of tracking alcohol sales in stores (not bars) because the government regulates stores that sell liquor. In addition, hospitals in the province keep highly-accurate records of assaults. So the region was basically a goldmine for data about how alcohol sales might impact assaults.


Alcohol Sales and Risk of Assault [PLoS Medicine]

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Annalee Newitz

@StrangelyBrown: It's not what I want to see in particular. It's just that this is further evidence that there's a correlation. I'm not saying it's the ONLY thing correlated to violence.