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Impacts of late-night booze is the focus of new Stirling University study

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A study looking at the impacts of later opening times for bars and nightclubs is being led by the University of Stirling.

The £1.1m cost is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health programme and looks at how opening times can affect health, crime and emergency services in Scotland.

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Professor Niamh Fitzgerald

Licensed hours had been extended in some premises in Aberdeen and Glasgow – prior to the pandemic – and this study will be the first to look at varying aspects of nightlife: including ambulance callouts and crime levels.

From the end of 2018, in Aberdeen, 30 premises were permitted to stay open two hours later to 3am, while in 2019 in Glasgow 10 nightclubs extended their finishing hours to 4am, an hour later than previously allowed.

Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at the University, Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, is the Principal Investigator and specialises in alcohol policy.

The results of the study will contribute to licensing decisions going forward, as well as policies and laws in the UK and abroad.

Professor Fitzgerald, said: “International evidence suggests that late night alcohol sales are associated with increased rates of assaults, injuries and disorder.

image credit: Glasgow Live

“In the UK alone, ambulance callouts due to alcohol are estimated at more than 171,000 annually, costing around £52 million.

“However, there are no UK studies looking at how opening hours affect ambulance callouts, or how they lead to changes in business practices, policing, health services and wider economic costs.

“Our study aims to understand and assess the impact of later opening hours on harms caused by alcohol, services and costs in Aberdeen and Glasgow, including for specific groups, and the implications for other UK cities if similar changes were introduced.

“We will also seek to understand local experiences of changes in bar/pub opening hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, and any lasting impact of changes such as curfews and takeaway sales.”

The study is set to be split across five sections. It focuses on what effects were expected and how public services and businesses were affected, identifying whether, when and what these premises have been using the extra hours for.

It will also examine the costs and benefits these changes could bring while identifying whether UK councils are considering similar changes and the impact on health and healthcare costs. As well as examining changes in alcohol-related callouts and assaults resulting from later hours.

The study will include co-investigators from across the UK and will run for three years. Professor Carol Emslie (Glasgow Caledonian University); Professor Emma McIntosh and Professor Jim Lewsey (both of the University of Glasgow); Colin Angus (University of Sheffield); Elaina Smith (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde); Dr Andrea Mohan (University of Dundee); and Dr David Fitzpatrick (Scottish Ambulance Service) will all be involved.

Professor Fitzgerald continued: “Our research will be the most methodologically robust and in-depth study of additional late-night alcohol availability in the UK to date, informed by systems thinking.

“By using a variety of research methods and drawing on the multi-disciplinary expertise of our team, we are ideally positioned to adapt the study to capture and respond to changes in thinking and policy around licensed premises post-COVID-19, supported by an excellent study steering committee.

“The findings will be useful to police and health services, local authority licensing teams and politicians and devolved and national governments, as well as communities and premises owners, in the UK and internationally.”

Feature image credit: Glasgow Live/Flickr

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