14 Jan 2016

Researchers slam 'biased' alcohol study

9:58 am on 14 January 2016

Auckland University researchers are hitting back at a study which downplays alcohol's link to violence.

A pint of beer is poured.

Photo: 123RF

British anthropologist Dr Anne Fox last year released an international, alcohol industry-sponsored study which blamed New Zealand's macho culture, rather than alcohol, for violent crime.

"When you blame alcohol for this, what you're doing is you're taking the spotlight off the real cause which is violent people committing violent acts," she said.

"No one is actually looking at the perpetrators of this violence and trying to devise reasonable ways of preventing this. By blaming the alcohol we are simply giving them an excuse to commit further acts of violence."

Now, Auckland University students have published a retort, saying the study is, in a word, wrong.

One of the researchers behind the article, PhD student Nicki Jackson, said Dr Fox's study was "dangerous", as it undermined far more credible research that proves alcohol is a factor in violent crime.

"We were absolutely compelled to provide a counter-argument to a report we thought was low in standard in terms of scientific research, and one which stood in the way of efforts to reduce the harm in New Zealand and Australia."

The study was biased as it was entirely funded by alcoholic beverage giant Lion, she said. Left unchecked, it could end up being promoted by government agencies to defend alcohol laws.

"It basically mirrors exactly what the industry has been saying for years, that you don't have to change the drinking, rather factors around the drinking," she said.

Ms Jackson said she was in favour of potentially reducing bar opening hours and raising the price of alcohol.

Hospitality New Zealand president Adam Cunningham described alcohol as a "social lubricant", and said bar managers and bouncers knew how to respond when things escalated.

"It's an important responsibility we hold to help be a part of the team which helps keep people safe," he said.

"People should be more concerned worrying about violence in the homes, which is where the much bigger issue is."

Police statistics show about a third of violent offending involves alcohol in some way.

Dr Fox has been contacted for comment.

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