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Journal Article


Nelson JP, McNall AD. Health Policy 2016; 120(3): 264-272.


Data Analyst, Centre Hall, PA, USA. Electronic address:


(Copyright © 2016, Elsevier Publishing)






OBJECTIVE: Evidence for alcohol-price policy relies heavily on aggregate econometric studies for the United States. Prior reviews of prices and alcohol-related harms include only a few studies based on natural experiments. This study provides a comprehensive review of natural experiments for a wide variety of harms from studies published during 2003 to 2015. We examine policy changes that importantly affected alcohol taxes and prices, and related changes in availability.

METHODS: Forty-five studies met inclusion criteria, covering nine countries: Australia, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and United States. Some studies cover more than one harm or country, and there are 69 outcomes for review. Summaries are provided for five outcome groups: alcohol-related mortality and hospitalizations; assaults and other crime; drink-driving; intoxication; and survey-indexes for dependency. The review notes both positive/mixed results and negative/null results.

RESULTS: Findings indicate that changes in taxes and prices have selective effects on harms. Mortality outcomes are positive for liver disease and older persons, especially in Finland and Russia. Mostly null results for assaults and drink-driving are found for five countries. Intoxication results for Nordic countries are mixed for selective subpopulations.

RESULTS for survey indexes are mixed, with no strong pattern of outcomes within or across countries.

CONCLUSION: Prior reviews stress taxes as a comprehensive and cost-effective intervention for addressing alcohol-related harms. A review of natural experiments indicates the confidence placed on this measure is too high, and natural experiments in alcohol policy had selective effects on various subpopulations.

Language: en


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