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Indicators for estimating trends in alcohol-related assault: evaluation using police data from Queensland, Australia
  1. Smriti Nepal1,
  2. Kypros Kypri1,
  3. John Attia1,2,
  4. Tanya Chikritzhs3,
  5. Peter G Miller4
  1. 1 School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, New Lambton Heights, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Hunter Medical Research Institute, New Lambton Heights, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Bentley, Perth WA, Australia
  4. 4 School of Psychology, Deakin University, Geelong Waterfront Campus, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Smriti Nepal, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, HMRI Building, Level-4 (West), 1 Kookaburra Circuit, New Lambton Heights, NSW 2305, Australia; smriti.nepal{at}


Monitoring levels of alcohol-related harm in populations requires indicators that are robust to extraneous influence. We investigated the validity of an indicator for police-attributed alcohol-related assault. We summarized offence records from Queensland Police, investigated patterns of missing data, and considered the utility of a surrogate for alcohol-related assault. Of 242 107 assaults from 2004–2014, in 35% of cases the drug used by the offender was recorded as ‘unknown’. Under various assumptions about non-random missingness the proportion of assaults judged to be alcohol-related varied from 30%–65%. We found a sharp increase in missing data from 2007 suggesting the downward trend from that point is artefactual. Conversely, we found a stable and increasing trend using a time-based surrogate. The volume of missing data and other limitations preclude valid estimation of trends using the police indicator, and demonstrate how misleading results can be produced. Our analysis supports the use of an empirically-based surrogate indicator.

  • police data
  • alcohol-related assault
  • trend
  • surrogate indicator

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  • Contributors SN was involved in the design of the study, analysis, writing and revision of the manuscript. All coauthors were involved in the design of the study, writing and in providing critique necessary for revision of the manuscript.

  • Funding This project was funded by Australian Research Council Discovery grant (DP150100441). KK’s contribution was funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellowship (1041867).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.