Page last updated: January 11, 2017
Major review of evidence on alcohol policy and harm reduction

A Public Health England (PHE) review of alcoholrelated harm in England and possible policy solutions was commissioned by the Department of Health. The report from the review, ‘The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies’, was published December 2

The report offers a summary of the types and prevalence of alcohol-related harm, and evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol control policies.

The report, based on almost two years of research and analysis, addresses a number of key policy areas. These include:

  • The price of alcohol and its effect on consumption
  • The impact of both the number of alcohol outlets in a given area, and the times at which they operate, on a range of potential harms
  • The effectiveness of existing controls on marketing, sponsorship and promotion
  • The role of ‘brief interventions’ in preventing harmful drinking
  • The effectiveness of schools-based education programmes
  • The evidence on alcohol treatment in tackling harmful and dependent drinking

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at PHE, said: “This evidence review will help local and national government and public services like the police and NHS to develop policies designed to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol. Since 2008, there has been a drop in total alcohol consumption but there has not been a corresponding drop in the level of related harms. The evidence review makes clear that alcohol-harm disproportionately affects the poorest communities, even though on average they drink no more than more affluent groups”. Other findings from the review include:

  • most adults in England drink alcohol - more than 10 million people are drinking at levels that increase the risk of harming their health
  • 5% of the heaviest drinkers account for one third of all alcohol consumed
  • alcohol is the leading cause of death among 15 to 49 year olds and heavy alcohol use has been identified as a cause of more than 200 health conditions
  • alcohol caused more years of life lost to the workforce than from the 10 most common cancers combined - in 2015 there were 167,000 years of working life lost
  • the evidence strongly supports a range of policies that are effective at reducing harm to public health while at the same time reducing health inequalities - reducing the affordability of alcohol is the cost effective way of reducing alcohol harm. attachment_data/file/574427/Alcohol_public_health_burden_evidence_review.pdf
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