Children in poorest areas encounter off-licences 5 times more frequently than those in wealthiest areas

Published 21st September 2022

New research from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit has found that children living in the most socially disadvantaged areas are more likely to be exposed to alcohol outlets and for them to be closer to their homes.

The study, led by Dr Fiona Caryl, used GPS data from the SPACES study, a nationally representative sample of almost 700 10 and 11 year old children. This is a vulnerable, formative development stage since in Scotland, children first experiment with alcohol at 13 years old.

The proportion of children, and the proportion of each child’s GPS, exposed to alcohol outlets was compared across different areas, along with how much of the exposure occurred within 500m of each child’s home and school.

Key findings:

  • Children living in the most deprived areas were almost five times more likely to be exposed to off-sales outlets than children from the least deprived areas.
  • These children were also almost three times more likely to be exposed to on-sales outlets.
  • Children in the most deprived areas received half (52%) of their total exposure within 500m of their homes and schools, predominantly from off-sales outlets (73%).
  • By contrast, home and school settings accounted for less than a third (29%) of children’s exposure in the least deprived areas, which was equally from on- and off-sales outlets.
  • Almost a third (31%) of all exposure experienced by children in deprived areas was attributable to off-sales outlets within 500m of their homes, compared to just 7% for children from the least deprived areas.
  • Children from all areas received 22—32% of their exposure within 500m of schools, but the proportion of this from off-sales outlets increased with area deprivation.

Dr Caryl said: “Alcohol use is a leading cause of harm in young people and increases the risk of alcohol dependence in adulthood. Children have little control over what they are exposed to, so policies that reduce inequities in alcohol availability should be prioritised to ensure that all children have the opportunity to lead healthy lives”.

The paper, Inequalities in children’s exposure to alcohol outlets in Scotland: a GPS study, is published in BMC Public Health.


First published: 20 September 2022

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