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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • violence;
  • homicide;
  • drinking pattern;
  • United States

Abstract

Introduction and Aims.Several aggregate-level studies have suggested that the relationship between alcohol and homicide is stronger in countries with an intoxication-oriented drinking pattern than in countries where drinking is more tempered. The present paper extends this research tradition by analysing the alcohol–homicide link in various regions in the USA.

Design and Methods.I used annual time-series data for the US states covering the period 1950–2002. Alcohol sales figures were used as proxy for alcohol consumption. Mortality data were used as indicators of homicide. The states were sorted into three groups labelled Dry, Moderate and Wet, where the last group has the highest prevalence of hazardous drinking according to survey data. Group-specific data were analysed using (i) autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modelling and (ii) fixed effects modelling. All modelling was based on differenced data, thus eliminating time trends and interstate correlations, both of which may bias estimates.

Results.The ARIMA estimates displayed a statistically significant gradient in alcohol effects; the effect was strongest in Wet, and weakest and insignificant in Dry states. The fixed-effects estimates showed a corresponding pattern, although the gradient was less steep and insignificant. The gradient was also weakened if the effects were expressed in absolute rather than relative terms. The spatial pattern revealed no ecological correlation between alcohol and homicide.

Discussion and Conclusions.Results provided mixed support for the hypothesis that the relationship between alcohol and homicide is stronger in wet than in dry states in the USA. Future research should probe more specific indicators of homicide as well as alcohol consumption.[Norström T. Alcohol and homicide in the United States: Is the link dependent on wetness? Drug Alcohol Rev 2011;30:458–465]