Stretching bar and nightclub opening times by just one hour significantly increases alcohol-related violence, according to research just published in the Addictionjournal. Authors Ingeborg Rossow and Thor Norstrom report that over the past ten years many Norwegian cities have extended or restricted their closing hours by one or two hours. This offered scope for a “natural experiment,” tracking the effect of these small changes on drunken violence. They found a one-hour bar extension increased violent assaults by 20 per year for every 100,000 of population—up 16%. The reverse also holds: one-hour-earlier closings were linked to significantly less violence. Booze-fueled bust-ups are also boosted by high intoxication levels, naturally, and by overcrowding. Initiatives like Toronto’s Safer Bars Program train staff to intervene before aggression gets out of hand. But the Norwegian research, which directly links police-reported assaults with changes to opening hours, suggests an easier, safer way to tackle the problem at source.
Urban alcohol-fueled violence is a growing global problem, especially in high income countries, says the World Health Organization. With a maximum closing time of 3am for “on-premises” alcohol sales, Norway’s licensing laws are slightly more liberal than in most US States. The UK, which introduced 24-hour drinking in 2005 in the hope of curbing a binge-drinking culture, sees around a million violent drunken crimes a year. This weekend, Australian police will tackle the problem through “Operation Unite,” patrolling streets from 6pm-2am to crack down on “boozed up hooligans.” The Norwegian findings provide powerful evidence to counter the alcohol industry’s promotion of longer trading hours.