Data from the ESRC-funded UK Data Service were used in a policy model which underpinned the Scottish Bill on minimum pricing of alcohol.

Many British governments have worked to combat the negative effects of alcohol consumption on the population’s health and limit the strain and cost it imposes on public services, and the effect it has on crime levels.

A mathematical model developed by researchers from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, University of Sheffield, has used datasets from the ESRC-funded UK Data Service to estimate impact from alcohol policies. The Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM) estimates the reduction in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms that would result from minimum pricing policies and the restriction of price-based promotions such as 'buy one, get one free'.

"Two key datasets from the UKDS provided vital input into this model and our work on alcohol pricing." (Dr Robin Purshouse, Sheffield Alcohol Research Group)

Researchers estimated that a 50 pence minimum unit price of alcohol in England would reduce overall alcohol consumption by 6.7 per cent, and produce savings over 10 years of £1.6 billion in health and social care costs, £410 million in costs to the criminal justice system, and £360 million in costs from work absenteeism.

These findings formed the core evidence cited by the UK and Scottish governments in their plans to implement minimum unit pricing. In 2012 the Scottish Government based its decision to introduce a Bill supporting a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol on findings from a version of SAPM adapted for Scotland. The UK Government has similarly used a version of SAPM to provide core evidence for its plans, announced in November 2012, to pursue minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

The Expenditure and Food Survey provided information on the prices different people pay for their alcohol and how people in England might respond to changes in the price of alcohol. "It's the best single source of data on alcohol purchasing in England that exists," says Dr Robin Purshouse of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

The General Household Survey was also crucial to the model, because it provided information on how much alcohol people in different sub-groups of the English population might drink.

Since 2008, the SAPM model – and subsequent versions - has made a major contribution to national and international debate on policies and services aimed at reducing alcohol misuse in society. The impact of implementing a minimum unit price for alcohol have been discussed at the highest levels of the UK and Scottish governments and have raised this policy to the top of the public health agenda in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Spain