Monday, 30 January 2012

Dying for a drink (or not as the case may be)!


While it seems relatively quiet so far, we can expect that "alcohol-related deaths have risen" will become the preferred argument of temperance campaigners, nannying fussbuckets and the Church of Public Health:

Alcohol related deaths in the UK have increased slightly between 2009 and 2010, according to official figures. The number of deaths linked to drinking has gone from 8,664 to 8,790 - a rise of 126. The Office for National Statistics said the increase was due to more deaths in men.

So should we be "doing something" about this scourge? Well, the official figures (and accompanying narrative) are quite helpful. Firstly the ONS point out that whatever the current strategy* looks like, it seems to be working:

GLF data also show that alcohol consumption for both males and females tended to increase until 2000–02 and declined thereafter (data available to 2009, 2010 data on alcohol consumption will be available in March 2011 in the GLF (ONS, 2011b)).

So we are drinking less but more of us are dying from drink. Again the statisticians helpfully explain this:

However, despite an apparent decrease in alcohol consumption, it is likely that it will take a number of years for any resulting reduction in alcohol-related deaths to become apparent as diseases associated with excessive alcohol consumption are often slow to develop. For example, Alcoholic Liver Disease, the most prevalent of all alcohol-related causes of death included in this bulletin, responsible for approximately 64 per cent of all alcohol-related deaths in 2010, takes approximately ten years to develop.

So we should start to see a decline in alcohol-related deaths from around 2012. Obviously, this remains to be seen but in no way can this very slight increase in 2010 (after a fall in 2009) be set as a argument for draconian intervention - minimum pricing and so forth.

*You know that strategy - 24-hour drinking, liberalised licensing, a grown-up attitude to drinking? The one that the prohibitionists and Daily Mail want to stop!

1 comment:

SteveW said...

I read somewhere (I thought either Dick Puddlecoat or VGIF, but can't seem to find it now) that the NHS were revising the way the calculate 'alcohol associated' admissions to actually relate to alcohol.

If so, we should see a very rapid decline the instant they actually measure what they report.