Neighborhoods teeming with liquor stores linked to jump in binge drinking

Neighborhoods where the concentration of liquor stores rises above a certain tipping point are linked to higher rates of binge drinking, according to a new analysis led by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

A survey in New York City showed that the adjusted prevalence of binge drinking was 13 percent in areas with 130 liquor stores per square mile, and 8 percent in areas with 80 stores. Below 80 stores per square mile, the connection to binge drinking behavior weakened considerably, the study said.

Researchers published their analysis this month in the Feb. 14 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Some city officials have put the spotlight on problems that arise when there are too many liquor stores in a neighborhood. Last year, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg considered a controversial initiative to reduce liquor stores and bars as a means of limiting alcohol sales in the city.

“Before, it was assumed that reducing liquor stores would be positive across the board, but these findings suggest that the high density areas are where reductions can make a meaningful difference,” said study lead author Jennifer Ahern, assistant professor of epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “Our findings could help policymakers who are deciding whether it makes sense to limit the number of liquor stores in a particular neighborhood

By Sarah Yang