Friday, 27 May 2011

Lies, damned lies and alcohol statistics - the truth about those hospital admissions figures

I was rather bothered yesterday by the revelation - leapt on by, it seems, every second media outlet with excitement - that "alcohol-related hospital admissions" had doubled since 2002.

The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England has exceeded one million in a year for the first time, a report has found.

Figures compiled by the NHS Information Centre for the year 2009-2010 revealed 1,057,000 hospital visits in relation to alcohol, a 12% increase on the previous year and more than double the amount recorded in 2002-2003. 

I was especially bothered since alcohol consumption has fallen year on year since 2002 and this degree of increase in alcohol-related ill-health simply doesn't tally with that fact.

I now know why thanks to Chris Snowdon and Nigel Hawkes that there's a pretty straightforward explanation:

These figures use a new methodology reflecting a substantial change in the way the impact of alcohol on hospital admissions is calculated. Previously the calculation counted only admissions for reasons specifically related to alcohol. The new calculation, for which the methodology is described in the report, includes a proportion of the admissions for reasons that are not always related to alcohol, but can be in some instances (such as accidental injury).

So these admission figures are not actual people really admitted to hospital for a drink-related reason but an approximation based on the estimation of a proportion of a given condition - say being hit on the head with a hammer - that, in aggregate can be attributed to drink.

And, as Chris Snowdon points out, where we really do know the admission is drink-related, the figures are falling:

Alcohol-related deaths – that is, those caused by conditions directly linked to alcohol – fell from 6,768 in 2008 to 6,584 in 2009. Much of the fall was attributable to a fall of nearly 250 in deaths from alcoholic liver disease.

Now that's not what they were saying on the news was it now?  This is twice in two days where the nannying fussbuckets have either misunderstood or misrepresented statistics about alcohol and health - I'm beginning to believe it's being done deliberately.



Sean O'Hare said...

Of course it's being done deliberately! Where have you been for the past 14 years or so?

SadButMadLad said...

SOP - Standard Operating Procedure