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The drink and violence ‘gender gap’

15 December 2009

Women and men are at the same risk of violence – until they start drinking, new research from Cardiff University has shown.

The University’s award-winning Violence and Society Research Group has shown that the risk of assault increases much faster for men than for women once they start drinking alcohol.

The Group studied patients arriving for hospital emergency treatment and members of the public out in public places late at night and at weekends. They found the risk of suffering violent injury was the same for men and women when they had drunk no alcohol. The risk rose more rapidly for men than for women when alcohol was consumed. However, the team also found there was an upper limit, of 11 alcohol units in men and five units in women, after which assault injury became less likely.

The study also showed that most assaults were either men attacking men or women attacking women. Incidents involving both sexes were rarer. The team also found that the risk of violence decreased with age, increased with disposable income and that home owners were at lower risk than other groups.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, Director of the Research Group, said: "In the Christmas party season, these results show once again that people can lower their risk of suffering violence by going easy on alcohol consumption. Men in particular become more at risk, perhaps because of different risk-taking behaviour between the two sexes when drunk.

"The finding that the risk of violence actually falls after a high level of consumption – 11 units in men and five units in women – may seem a little strange. However, we know that alcohol is ultimately a depressant, and people may become less impulsive and argumentative at these levels."

The Violence and Society Research Group has just been awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education, recognising its research work linking public health and crime prevention. This latest study has been published in Emergency Medicine Journal.

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. The University has just established the Universities Police Science Institute, a joint venture with South Wales Police and the University of Glamorgan, which will be the first institute in England and Wales dedicated to addressing issues facing modern police forces. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of Britain’s leading research universities.

The University website is at:

The Violence and Society Research Group website is at

Professor Jonathan Shepherd

School of Dentistry

Cardiff University

Telephone 029 20742442 or 20744215

Mobile 07779 490022


Dr Vas Sivarajasingam

School of Dentistry

Cardiff University

Telephone 029 20742441

Mobile 07753 863446


Stephen Rouse

Public Relations Office,

Cardiff University

T: 029 20 875 996