Teetotal young linked to drop in violence

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CHANGES in the way Britons consume alcohol, including a “sharp rise” in the number of teetotal young people, may explain falling rates of violence across the country, academics say.

Numbers of people attending hospital in England and Wales after being injured by violence dropped by 12 per cent in 2013 compared with 2012, according to a study by Cardiff University.

Its author Professor Jonathan Shepherd said the growth of “multi-agency” violence prevention teams made up of police, NHS and local council staff in local areas “may well be a factor”.

But he also cited recent changes to the nation’s alcohol consumption rates, which have decreased from 10.8 lites per person in 2008 to ten litres in 2011.

He said: “Binge drinking has become less frequent, and the proportion of youths who don’t drink alcohol at all has risen sharply. Also, after decades in which alcohol has become more affordable, since 2008 it has become less affordable. For people most prone to involvement in violence, those aged 18-30, falls in disposable income are probably an important factor.”

Reflecting a change dubbed the ‘Hermione Granger effect’ after the polite and clean-living Harry Potter character, an NHS study last year revealed a drop in the number of 11 to 15-year-olds who had consumed alcohol in the last week and those who had ever drunk alcohol.

The Cardiff study says an estimated 234,509 people attended Emergency Departments, Minor Injury Units and Walk-in Centres for treatment following violence in 2013, a drop of 32,780 compared with 2012. Males were three times more likely to be treated for violence than females, while half of those injured were aged 18 to 30.

Data was gathered from 117 NHS sites, including Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

Professor Shepherd said levels of serious violence had fallen for every year except one since 2001, but that experts did not know all the reasons why levels of violence were falling across Western Europe. He said: “Continuing, substantial decreases in serious violence are welcome for citizens, communities and in combatting the fear of crime.”

According to police-recorded crime figures, which have since lost their “gold standard” status from the UK Statistics Authority, violence against the person offences fell by two per cent nationally in the year to September 2013. In Yorkshire violence with injury offences dropped by three per cent, though violence without injury offences during the same period were up by 11 per cent.

Dr Ian Cameron, Leeds City Council Director of Public Health, said the city had seen “very positive trends” recently.

He said: “Drug and alcohol treatment services have improved considerably. We know there are a wide range of different factors which affect violence statistics, but know alcohol misuse contributes. This is one of the reasons we are going to step up the work we do to reduce drinking and violence this year.”

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