The impact of alcohol minimum unit pricing on people with experience of homelessness: Qualitative study

Carol Emslie, Elena Dimova, Rosaleen O'Brien, Martin Whiteford, Sarah Johnsen, Robert Rush, Iain D. Smith, Tim Stockwell, Anne Whittaker, Lawrie Elliott

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Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) was introduced in Scotland in May 2018. Existing evidence suggests MUP can reduce alcohol consumption in the general population, but there is little research about its impact on vulnerable groups. This qualitative study explored experiences of MUP among people with experience of homelessness.

We conducted qualitative semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 46 people with current or recent experience of homelessness who were current drinkers when MUP was introduced. Participants (30 men and 16 women) were aged 21 to 73 years. Interviews focused on views and experiences of MUP. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

People with experience of homelessness were aware of MUP but it was accorded low priority in their hierarchy of concerns. Reported impacts varied. Some participants reduced their drinking, or moved away from drinking strong white cider, in line with policy intentions. Others were unaffected because the cost of their preferred drink (usually wine, vodka or beer) did not change substantially. A minority reported increased involvement in begging. Wider personal, relational and social factors also played an important role in responses to MUP.

This is the first qualitative study to provide a detailed exploration of the impact of MUP among people with experience of homelessness. Our findings suggest that MUP worked as intended for some people with experience of homelessness, while a minority reported negative consequences. Our findings are of international significance to policymakers, emphasising the need to consider the impact of population level health policies on marginalised groups and the wider contextual factors that affect responses to policies within these groups. It is important to invest further in secure housing and appropriate support services and to implement and evaluate harm reduction initiatives such as managed alcohol programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104095
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date10 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Alcohol
  • Homelessness
  • Minimum unit pricing (MUP)
  • Public health


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