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Alcohol and aggressiveness

Published 6 April 2006. Updated 8 June 2015.

Alcohol plays a part in most violent crimes. However, it is not easy to prove scientifically that alcohol increases aggressiveness. When people have been studied in neutral laboratory conditions, it has rarely been noted that alcohol would have an influence on aggressiveness. However, when people have been studied in situations where they can interact with each other, such as in staged get-togethers, alcohol has been found to affect aggressiveness, for example by increasing hostile language.

Furthermore, several demographic studies have found a connection between the amount of alcohol consumed and violent situations. Heavy drinkers and people with a drinking problem have an increased risk of behaving violently and becoming victims of violence. Interviews conducted by the Finnish National Research Institute of Legal Policy between the years 1980 and 2009 showed that 74 to 83% of men and 50 to 65% of women who had become subject to any kind of violence reported that the violent person had been intoxicated.

Alcohol has a different kind of effect on different individuals, but in a state of intoxication the regulation of both physical and mental activities always deteriorates. It may well be that drunkenness lowers our inhibitions for hostility, thus revealing the worst side of ourselves; one that we know is ready to pick a fight.

Kalervo Kiianmaa
Research professor, National Institute for Health and Welfare

Updated by:
Marja Holmila
National Institute for Health and Welfare

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