Can harms associated with high-intensity drinking be reduced by increasing the price of alcohol?


Joshua Byrnes PhD, Research Fellow, Anthony Shakeshaft PhD, Associate Professor, Dennis Petrie PhD, SIRE Lecturer in Health Economics, Christopher Doran PhD, Professor. Correspondence to Dr Joshua Byrnes, School of Medicine, Room 2.14, Information Services (L03), Griffith University, University Drive, Meadowbrook, Qld 4131, Australia. Tel: +61 7 3382 1156; Fax: +61 7 3382 1338; Email:


Introduction and Aims

Increasing the price of alcohol is consistently shown to reduce the average level of consumption. However, the evidence for the effect of increasing the price on high-intensity drinking is both limited and equivocal. The aim of this analysis is to estimate the effect of changes in price on patterns of consumption.

Design and Methods

Self-reported patterns of alcohol consumption and demographic data were obtained from the Australian National Drug Strategy Household Surveys, conducted in 2001, 2004 and 2007. A pooled three-stage least-squares estimator was used to simultaneously model the impact of the price on the frequency (measured in days) of consuming no, low, moderate and high quantities of alcohol.


A 1% increase in the price of alcohol was associated with a statistically significant increase of 6.41 days per year on which no alcohol is consumed (P 0.049), and a statistically significant decrease of 7.30 days on which 1–4 standard drinks are consumed (P 0.021). There was no statistically significant change for high or moderate-intensity drinking.


For Australia, and countries with a similar pattern of predominant high-intensity drinking, taxation policies that increase the price of alcohol and are very efficient at decreasing harms associated with reduced average consumption may be relatively inefficient at decreasing alcohol harms associated with high-intensity drinking.