Aggression and other acute harms experienced in the night-time economy are topics of significant public health concern. Although policies to minimise these harms are frequently proposed, there is often little evidence available to support their effectiveness. In particular, indirect and displacement effects are rarely measured. This paper describes a proof-of-concept agent-based model ‘SimDrink’, built in NetLogo, which simulates a population of 18-25 year old heavy alcohol drinkers on a night out in Melbourne to provide a means for conducting policy experiments to inform policy decisions. The model includes demographic, setting and situational-behavioural heterogeneity and is able to capture any unintended consequences of policy changes. It consists of individuals and their friendship groups moving between private, public-commercial (e.g. nightclub) and public-niche (e.g. bar, pub) venues while tracking their alcohol consumption, spending and whether or not they experience consumption-related harms (i.e. drink too much), are involved in verbal violence, or have difficulty getting home. When compared to available literature, the model can reproduce current estimates for the prevalence of verbal violence experienced by this population on a single night out, and produce realistic values for the prevalence of consumption-related and transport-related harms. Outputs are robust to variations in underlying parameters. Further work with policy makers is required to identify several specific proposed harm reduction interventions that can be virtually implemented and compared. This will allow evidence based decisions to be made and will help to ensure any interventions have their intended effects.
Link to publisher’s web site
The research reported here was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP110101720). The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution to this work of the Victorian Operational Infrastructure Support Program. The National Drug Research Institute is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund. NS is the recipient of a Burnet Institute Jim and Margaret Beever Fellowship, PD is the recipient of a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Senior Research Fellowship and ML is the recipient of an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship.