Tuesday, 28 February 2012

On the misrepresentation of alcohol statistics...

We've all (I hope) spotted the lack of any logical connection between declining alcohol consumption and rising hospital admissions for "alcohol-related" reasons. There's less binge-drinking going on yet we're getting ill as a result of the reduced boozing - clearly they're putting something odd in the beer! Or else the health authorities are misleading us.

Beer writer, Pete Brown has set out - in perhaps the clearest terms yet - just how this misrepresentation works:

Let’s say you’re walking down the street, and you’re hit by a car that mounts the pavement. The reason you’re in hospital is that you have been hit by a car. But say you also have high blood pressure. One possible cause of high blood pressure is drinking to excess.

So even if you haven’t been drinking on the day of your admission to hospital, a fraction of your admission is recorded as being alcohol related.

Even if alcohol is not the reason for your high blood pressure.

You've got that haven't you? The statistics - those million admissions due to binge-drinking that the New Puritans roll out - are as close to a fiction as you can get. So much so that the Department of Health plans to change the way we divide up admissions so as to avoid this sort of nonsense. Think about it for a second - as we live longer, we're more likely to get a heart condition and more likely to get cancer. Since a proportion of heart conditions and cancers are attributed to drinking, 'alcohol-related' admissions rise even though we're not drinking.

Pete Brown goes on to give the true (or perhaps a "more accurate") figure for alcohol-related admissions:

When you take out these partial fractions, the estimate for alcohol-related hospital admissions falls from 1,057,000 for 2009/10 to 194,800. Of this figure, some admissions are ‘partially attributable’ to alcohol, and some ‘wholly attributable’.

If you want the figure for hospital admissions that are absolutely and wholly to do with alcohol, it falls to 68,400.

Still a lot of admissions - and there's still quite a few deaths each year (mortality statistics say 8,900 or so) attributable to boozing - but nothing like the picture painted by the New Puritans.

The rest of the Pete Brown's article challenges the "cost to society" of drinking! I'm sure the New Puritans will dismiss this analysis since Brown is a beer writer and plainly in the pay of the drinks industry! However, the truth is sinking in slowly I hope - we don't have a 'pandemic' of alcohol.



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