Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Is Sarah Wollaston telling porkies or simply misinformed?


Sarah Wollaston, anti-booze campaigner has penned a withering article in Politics Home where she says:

In 2010, the ONS recorded 8,790 alcohol-related deaths in the UK but this is a gross underestimate as it excludes accidental deaths, road traffic accidents, impulsive suicides and homicides. Alcohol causes around 22,000 deaths per year.

This is factually incorrect. Here are the real (or real as we can get) numbers for 2010:

·         Deaths attributable to drink-driving  - 250. This figure has been falling steadily for several years, matching the decline in alcohol consumption since 2002. Deaths are at their lowest level for 30 years.
·         Deaths from fire attributable to alcohol – 113. Again this is a declining figure – the Institute of Alcohol Studies (not exactly a pro-booze organisation) estimates that “...in 47% of cases, the victim was under the influence of a substance of some kind at the time of the fire. In 33% of the cases, the substance was alcohol”
·         Deaths from drowning attributable to alcohol -  68. Again the Institute of Alcohol Studies estimates that alcohol “...was a factor in 13% of the cases”.
·         Workplace deaths attributable to alcohol – 35. Again this has declined steadily – partly because of much-maligned health and safety regulations and partly because of fewer high risk workplaces
·         Home accidents attributable to alcohol – 400. The IAS attributed 10% of accidents to booze and there are around 4000 deaths from home accidents each year.
·         Homicides with links to alcohol – 455. This assumes that 70% of murders in the UK are in some way drink-related which is at the top end of IAS estimates. And murder rates are at their lowest levels for a long time.
·         Suicides linked to alcohol – 3365. Again using to higher IAS estimates. The UK suicide rate is not rising.

I make it 13,256 deaths – still a lot but nowhere close to Dr Wollaston’s 22,000 deaths. There needs to be an adjustment for accidental deaths (other than poisoning which is included in the 8790) outside the home. However, the total number of deaths from “external causes” is only 11,000 or so which includes those suicides.  There certainly aren’t nearly 9000 alcohol-caused accidental deaths outside the home – people would have noticed!

Why do I think that the good doctor – or whoever feeds her data – is just making stuff up?



SadButMadLad said...

It's not fake figures like hospital admissions being classified as alcohol related in factors is it? Like breaking your leg is 0.2 alcohol related, etc.

Captcha: kraprap

david said...

You may be interested in this and associated links.


There don't appear to be any official stats for England and Wales (only Scotland and NI).