Expanding the supply of cheap alcohol was followed by these pregnancy outcomes mainly among low-income women. Both abortions and adverse birth outcomes reverted to their previous levels after several months.
The short-term increase of adverse birth outcomes and abortions after the price cut implies that the price cut was followed by a period of increased drinking, after which the women at risk returned to the initial levels or patterns of consumption.
A plausible explanation for these findings is that when alcohol becomes more affordable to people with monetary constraints, they drink more. A population-level rise in drinking would cause a rise in prenatal exposure to alcohol and a corresponding rise in adverse birth outcomes. Another plausible explanation is that lower alcohol prices may increase unintentional pregnancies, causing a corresponding rise in abortions.
The study made by University of Helsinki looked at 32,400 abortions and almost 170,000 live births over the two years before and one year after a tax cut that lowered the price of off-premises alcohol by 33%. Lowered alcohol prices were associated with a 0.84 percentage point increase in abortions immediately after the price cut. Furthermore, there was a 1.5 percentage point higher probability of low birth weight, and a 1.98 percentage point increased probability of preterm birth among low-income women after the price cut.
Co-author Juha Luukkonen, email@example.com
Full citation for article: Luukkonen J, Junna L, Remes H, and Martikainen P. The association of lowered alcohol prices with birth outcomes and abortions: A population-based natural experiment. Addiction. 2023. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.16119
This paper is free to read for one month after publication from the Wiley Online Library: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.16119
Funding: Academy of Finland, European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Max Planck-University of Helsinki Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health; NordForsk.
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Addiction (www.addictionjournal.org) is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, substances, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces.