The Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM)

The Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (also known as SAPM or the Sheffield model) provides estimates of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol policies including pricing and availability policies as well as screening and brief interventions. It has been influential in informing public and political debate on alcohol policy and has provided a key evidence base for informing policy decisions around minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Adaptations of the model have been provided for the Scottish government and work is underway to provide further international adaptations.

Please see below for further information on the structure of the model and sources of further information.

Structure of the model

Version 2 of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model addresses four different types of policies; pricing policies, availability or advertising policies and screening and brief interventions. The outputs of the model provide estimates of:

  • Changes in alcohol consumption for different population subgroups;
  • Changes in the incidence of various alcohol-related harms including health conditions, crime, unemployment and sickness absence;
  • The costs associated with changes in the incidence of harm incorporating direct costs (e.g. to the health services or police) as well as costs associated with changes in individuals’ quality of life (e.g. from alcohol-related diseases or being a victim of crime).

Analyses are carried out on population subgroups defined by age, sex and consumption level. This means the model is able to present results describing the impact of alcohol policies on particular subgroups of interest such as young hazardous drinkers, moderate drinkers or harmful drinkers.

The pricing model has two elements. The first element uses an econometric approach to model consumer responses to changes in the prices of alcoholic beverages. This allows appraisal of how consumers’ change consumption levels, drink in alternative settings or switch to alternative beverages following a pricing policy change. The second element uses epidemiological data on the relationship between alcohol consumption and various harms to model how those changes in consumption change the consumers’ risk of harm. This allows for estimates of the change in incidence of alcohol-related harms and the costs associated with those harms to be calculated.

The screening and brief intervention model uses a range of data from healthcare settings and published evidence on the effectiveness of brief interventions in altering consumption behaviour to model a set of possible policies. The impact of changes in consumption is modelled as in the pricing policy; however, crime and work-related harms are excluded.

The availability and advertising models addresses changes in outlet density, licensing hours and advertising and is based on a similar approach but uses published evidence rather than econometric analyses to estimate the impacts of availability changes on consumption. Changes in consumption are then linked to changes in the risk of harm and changes in the estimates of total harm as in the pricing model.
Version 3 of the model is currently being developed as part of our 3-year MRC- and ESRC-funded programme of research known as IARP (Interdisciplinary Alcohol Research Programme). For more information see the project’s webpage and our interim report on new methods, updates results from version 2.5 of the model.

Further information


Journal Articles

Ally, A., Meng, Y., Chakraborty, R., Dobson, PW., Seaton, JS., Holmes, J., Angus, C., Guo, Y., Hill-McManus, D., Brennan, A. and Meier, PS. (2014) 'Alcohol tax pass-through across the product and price range: do retailers treat cheap alcohol differently?', Addiction, DOI:10.1111/add.12590.

Holmes, J., Meng, Y., Meier, PS., Brennan, A., Angus, C., Campbell-Burton, A., Guo, Y., Hill-McManus, D., and Purshouse, RC. (2014) 'Effects of minimum unit pricing for alcohol on different income and socioeconomic groups: a modelling study', The Lancet, 383 (9929), 1655-64.  See accompanying commentary.

Meng, Y., Brennan, A., Purshouse, R., Hill-McManus, D., Angus, C., Holmes, J. and Meier, PS. (2014) 'Estimation of own and cross price elasticities of alcohol demand in the UK: A pseudo-panel approach using the Living Costs and Food Survey 2001-2009', Journal of Health Economics, DOI:

Hill-McManus, D., Angus, C., Meng, Y., Holmes, J., Brennan, A. and Meier, P. (2014) 'Estimation of usual occasion-based individual drinking patterns using diary data', Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 13 (1), pp.136-43

Meng, Y., Holmes, J., Hill-McManus, D., Brennan, A. and Meier, PS. (2014) 'Trend analysis and modelling of gender-specific age, period and birth cohort effects on alcohol abstention and consumption level for drinkers in Great Britain using the General Lifestyle Survey 1984-2009' Addiction, 109 (2), pp.206-15

Brennan, A., Meier, P., Purshouse, R., Rafia, R., Meng, Y., and Hill-McManus, D. (2013) 'Developing policy analytics for public health strategy and decisions - the Sheffield alcohol policy model framework', Annals of Operational Research, DOI: 10.1007/s10479-013-1451-z

Meier, PS., Meng, Y., Holmes, J., Baumberg, B., Purshouse, R., Hill-McManus, D. and Brennan, A. (2013) 'Adjusting for Unrecorded Consumption in Survey and Per Capita Sales Data: Quanification of Impact on Gender- and Age-specific Alcohol-attributable Fractions for Oral and Pharyngeal Cancers in Great Britain'. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 48 (2), pp.241-49

Purshouse, R., Brennan, A., Rafia, R., Latimer, N., Archer, R., Angus, C., Preston, L. and Meier, P.  (2012) 'Modelling the Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Screening and Brief Interventions in Primary Care in England'Alcohol and Alcoholism. 48 (2), pp. 180-8

Holmes, J., Meier, P., Booth, A., Guo, Y. & Brennan, A.  (2012)  'The temporal relationship between per capita alcohol consumption and harm: A systematic review of time lag specifications in aggregate time series analyses.'  Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 123 (1–3), pp.7–14

Purshouse, R.C., Meier, P.S., Brennan, A., Taylor, K.B. & Rafia, R. (2010) ‘Estimated effect of alcohol pricing policies on health and health economic outcomes in England: an epidemiological model’, The Lancet, 375 (9723), pp.1355-64. See accompanying commentary.

Meier, P.S., Brennan, A., Purshouse, R. (2010) Policy Options for Alcohol Price Regulation: The Importance of Modelling Population Heterogeneity, Addiction, 105 (3) , pp.383-93.  See accompanying commentaries.

Alcohol policy modelling reports

Reports to the Scottish government

Meng, Y. et al. (2012) 'Model-based appraisal of alcohol minimum pricing and off-licensed trade discount bans in Scotland using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (v.2):  Second update based on newly available data' ScHARR, University of Sheffield

Meng, Y. et al. (2010) ‘Model-based appraisal of alcohol minimum pricing and off-licensed trade discount bans in Scotland using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (v.2): An update based on newly available data’ ScHARR, University of Sheffield

Purshouse, R. et al. (2009) ‘Model-based appraisal of alcohol minimum pricing and off-licensed trade discount bans in Scotland: A Scottish adaptation of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model version 2’, ScHARR, University of Sheffield

England reports

Meng, Y. et al. (2013) 'Modelled income group-specific impacts of alcohol minimum unit pricing in England 2014/15: Policy appraisals using new developments to the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (v2.5)', Sheffield: ScHARR - See Addendum examining the impact of a ban on 'below cost selling'

Purshouse, R. et al. (2009) ‘Modelling to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of public health related strategies and intervention to reduce alcohol attributable harm in England using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model version 2.0’, Report to the NICE Public Health Programme Development Group.  See additional Appendices

Brennan, A. et al. (2009) ‘Modelling the Potential Impact of Pricing and Promotion Policies for Alcohol in England: Results from the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model Version 2008 (1-1)’, Independent review of the effect of Alcohol Pricing and Promotion: Part B

Reports for other jurisdictions

Hill-McManus, D., Brennan, A., Stockwell, T., Giesbrecht, N., Thomas, G., Zhao, J., Martin, G. and Wettlaufer, A. (2012) 'Model-based appraisal of alcohol minimum pricing in Ontario and British Columbia: A Canadian adaptation of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model Version 2'. Sheffield: ScHARR, University of Sheffield

Other reports, journal contributions and publications

Ludbrook, A., Holmes, J. and Stockwell, T. (2014) 'Gender differences in alcohol demand: A systematic review of the role of prices and taxes. Comment on conclusions by Nelson', Health Economics, DOI: 10.1002/hec.3096.

Purshouse, R.C et al. (2014) 'Commentary on Nakamura et al. (2014): Alcohol policy appraisal and evaluation - to understand what is happening and why, we need better data on alcohol as a commodity', Addiction, 109 (4) pp.568-9

Purshouse, R.C et al. (2013) 'Reply to Klaus Makela's Cost-of-alcohol studies as a research programme', Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 30 (5) pp.445-7

Meng, Y. et al. (2013) 'Estimation of own and cross price elasticities of alcohol demand in the UK - a pseudo-panel approach using the Living Cost and Food Survey 2001 to 2009'. HEDS Discussion paper DP 13/11. Sheffield: ScHARR

Brennan, A. et al. (2013) 'A public response to the Adam Smith Institute's critique of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model'. Sheffield: ScHARR.  See also: 'Response to the Appendix to Duffy and Snowdon's report'

Booth, A., Meier, P., Shapland. J., Wong. R. and Paisley, S. (2011) 'Alcohol pricing and criminal harm: a rapid evidence assessment of the published research literature'.  Sheffield: ScHARR

Booth, A. et al. (2008) ‘Independent review of the effects of Alcohol Pricing and Promotion: Part A: Systematic Reviews’, Project Report for the Department of Health

News articles and other media

June 2014, 'UK supermarkets minimise price rises for the cheapest alcohol when taxes are increased', blog post for Public Health Topics @ The University of Sheffield.

April 2014, 'Minimum unit pricing: Effective and Equitable?', Dr John Holmes at the New Directions in the Study of Alcohol Group conference (VIDEO).

March 2014 'Alcohol duty cuts make the Coalition's cheap alcohol policy even less effective', blog post for Public Health Topics @ The University of Sheffield.

February 2014, 'Minimum pricing for alcohol: Reducing health inequalities without penalising responsible drinkers', blog post by Dr John Holmes for Public Health Topics @ The University of Sheffield.

January 2014, 'Computer Modelling: All about the image?', Dr Robin Purshouse at Battle of Ideas 2013 (VIDEO)

January 2014, 'Below Cost Alcohol Ban 40 Times Less Effective Than Minimum Pricing', Dr John Holmes writes for The Conversation UK

July 2013, SARG press release on the impacts of a ban on below cost selling

December 2012, 'The impact of minimum pricing: Evidence from the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model', Dr John Holmes at Alcohol Action Ireland's annual conference

November 2012, 'Alcohol minimum pricing 'effective in reducing consumption'', Dr John Holmes speaks to BBC News