Early death more likely in areas with lots of alcohol outlets

Scientists have found a link between the density of both cheque-cashing places and alcohol outlets in a given neighbourhood and the risk of premature death.

PTI| Last Updated: Dec 28, 2014, 17:14 PM IST

Toronto: Scientists have found a link between the density of both cheque-cashing places and alcohol outlets in a given neighbourhood and the risk of premature death.

The relation was stronger in men than in women, according to Dr Flora Matheson and Dr Joel Ray from St Michael's Hospital, Canada.

The findings suggest that the strategic placement of cheque-cashing places and alcohol outlets in certain areas may provide local residents with ready access to quick cash and the purchase of alcohol.

Matheson, a medical sociologist and research scientist, said this is particularly true in the holiday season, when banks may be closed, people need money quickly and alcohol sales go up dramatically.

However, the authors do not say that cheque-cashing or alcohol outlets directly play a role in premature deaths.

Their survey of Toronto's 140 neighbourhoods found that men had a 1.25 times greater risk of premature death in areas with high densities of cheque cashing places.

They had a 1.36 times greater risk of premature death in areas with high densities of alcohol outlets - alcohol and beer stores and on-premise licensed facilities such as bars.

The premature mortality rate was 96.3 for every 10,000 males and 55.9 for every 10,000 females ages 20-59 years.

The researchers looked at people ages 20-59 only, so as to eliminate causes of premature death traditionally related to newborns, children and seniors.

Intentional self-harm, accidental poisoning and liver disease are among the top five causes of premature death among men ages 20-59, and many of these deaths are highly preventable, they said.

A substantial amount of research has been conducted on the relation between neighbourhoods and residents' health.

Neighbourhood disadvantage is associated with poor psychological and physical health. However, the current study already factors in neighbourhood income and crime rates.

While there is some compelling evidence around limiting the number of alcohol outlets and hours of operation, less is known about cheque-cashing places.

Researchers said this is the first study to examine the relation between cheque-cashing places and premature death.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Open.