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Health Econ Rev. 2015 Feb 12;5:6. doi: 10.1186/s13561-014-0040-4. eCollection 2015.

Binge drinking and alcohol prices: a systematic review of age-related results from econometric studies, natural experiments and field studies.

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Department of Economics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802 USA.



Heavy episodic ("binge") drinking of alcohol has serious public health implications, especially for youth and young adults. Previous summaries and surveys have failed to address in a comprehensive manner the effects of alcohol prices on binge drinking by gender or age group.


A qualitative systematic review is performed for effects of alcohol prices (or tax surrogates) on binge drinking for three age groups: youth, young adults, and adults. Outcomes examined include binge participation, intensity and frequency. Criteria for data collection and potential sources of bias are discussed, including adequacy of price data. Price-binge relationships are judged using a 95% confidence interval (pā€‰ā‰¤ā€‰0.05) for statistical significance.


Fifty-six relevant econometric studies were found, with studies and results distributed equally among three age groups. Also found were five natural experiments for tax reductions and six field studies. Null results or mixed results are found in more than half of the studies. The body of evidence indicates that binge drinkers are not highly-responsive to increased prices. Non-responsiveness holds generally for younger and older drinkers and for male and female binge drinkers alike. A limitation of the current literature is that results are only available for higher-income countries.


Increased alcohol taxes or prices are unlikely to be effective as a means to reduce binge drinking, regardless of gender or age group.


Alcohol prices; Binge drinking; Systematic review; Young adults; Youth

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