HEAVIER drinkers are much more likely to be involved in violence if they have suffered difficult childhoods, a new study suggests.

The link between adverse childhood experiences, alcohol and violence is especially pronounced in young men aged 18 to 29.

Researchers working at Public Health Wales and Bangor University found that 62% of those with high levels of adverse childhood experiences who are heavier drinkers have hit someone in the previous 12 months.

This compares to 13.5% in heavier drinkers with no adverse childhood experiences.

The study, which examined 12,669 adults across England and Wales, found the combination of adverse childhood experiences and heavier drinking increased risks of recent violence in individuals of all ages but was particularly marked in young men.

The study found that in women the figure was lower but still substantial.

Approximately one in four women aged 18 to 29 who were heavier drinkers and had high levels of adverse childhood experiences had hit someone in the last 12 months.

Lead author Professor Mark Bellis, from Public Health Wales, said: "We know that people who suffer high levels of adversity in their childhood can find it more difficult to control their emotions as adults, including feelings of aggression.

"Our results suggest that when they are also heavier drinkers this may further erode their control and increase the risk of them being involved in violence.

"Unfortunately, our results also suggest that individuals who were abused and neglected as children or exposed to traumas such as parents fighting in their home are also more likely to become heavier drinkers.

"In many circumstances drinking more heavily may be something they began in order to cope with childhood traumas.

"Sadly, a toxic mix of childhood trauma and high adult alcohol consumption is not uncommon, and we found this combination in one in 20 of all men we surveyed.

"Such individuals are more than 20 times more likely to have hit someone in the last 12 months compared to lower level drinkers with adversity free childhoods."

Other results from the study identified similar relationships between adverse childhood experiences, alcohol use and being a recent victim of violence.

Co-author Professor Karen Hughes, from Bangor University, added: "If you hit someone you are more likely be hit yourself and this may be part of the explanation why people who are currently heavier drinkers and have a history of adverse childhood experiences are more likely to have been a recent victim of violence.

"However, for some people their childhood adversities will have included experiencing violence and seeing domestic violence in their homes.

"Some women who experience such childhoods may believe suffering domestic violence is expected and so stay in abusive relationships and use alcohol as a coping mechanism."

Researchers combined data from four studies undertaken in England and Wales between 2012 and 2015.

The study, Does Adult Alcohol Consumption Combine With Adverse Childhood Experiences To Increase Involvement In Violence In Men And Women? A Crosssectional Study In England And Wales, is published in BMJ Open.