Thursday 7 June 2012

Shhh ... Alcohol Consumption Is Down Again

Did you know that the latest NHS statistics on alcohol consumption were released just before the Jubilee?

You didn't? Well, I suppose it's an easy mistake to make because the BBC didn't seem to notice it either. Perhaps it's because they were all camped out around the Mall ... or that the health section's skeleton staff would have had to report on this little "key fact".
There has been a long-term downward trend in the proportion of adults who reported drinking in the week prior to interview. In 1998 75 per cent of men and 59 per cent of women drank in the week prior to interview compared to 68 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women in 2010.
In fact, searching the text in Google, it would seem that it was missed by all media outlets apart from those in the drinks trade.

Perhaps I was looking for something too upbeat. The Mail, for example, picked up on the statistics with this lurid headline.
Number of people being admitted to hospital because of alcohol jumps 10 per cent in a year
There is no mention whatsoever of the good news in the NHS report, but a rent-a-quote from Alcohol Concern is given ample publicity.

Sadly (for journalism) even the 'fact' they chose to lead on isn't accurate, as they'd have discovered if bothering to read further down the same paragraph of the press release.
Comparisons over time in the broad measure are complicated by changes in recording practices over the period. In order to estimate the trend once changes in recording practices are accounted for, a method to adjust the national figures has been devised which is presented in Appendix G of the report. Adjusted figures show a 49 per cent increase from an estimated 783,300 in 2002/03 but a 3 per cent decrease from 1,208,100 in 2009/10.
There are more statistical flies in the ointment than that as well - with regard to an increasingly wider net being thrown around up to 20 sub-diagnoses over the past decade - but only, err, DAILY MAIL REPORTER can explain how a real terms decrease is emblazoned on its pages as a "jump" of "10 per cent in a year".

And, as we know, such figures are also skewed since all manner of admissions not necessarily to do with alcohol are included. "For example, 46% of pedestrian traffic accidents involving women aged 25 to 44 are estimated to be attributable to alcohol." [6.18]

"What about the children?", I can hear you cry. Well, it's good news there too.
13% of secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview in 2010 compared with 18 per cent of pupils in 2009 and 26 per cent in 2001.
And I can now update this graph (or I would if I did graphs as good as this) with yet another decrease in overall consumption (table 2.5).

Women drinking over the paltry 14 units per week decreased from 18% to 17% while men remained static at 26%, but the average weekly units fell from 16.4 to 15.9 for men and 8.0 to 7.6 for women.

In public health terms, this is cracking news, isn't it?

Well, not if you're trying to make a case for an urgent minimum price for alcohol it's not, no. Best keep it all hush hush then, eh?


Winston Smith said...

With all the adverse publicity on drinking, many people may be tempted to downplay their drinking habits, which could account for the (overlooked) good news, whether adult or child, male or female. After all, when you know how much you are “supposed” to drink, you are more likely to err towards the ordained, especially if it is lower, than admit to “too much”.
Just a thought.
Winston Smith

Mudplugger said...

Interesting that the 12-year decline in the total percentage admitting to drinking alcohol in the survey period coincides with the massive increase in immigrants from cultures in which alcohol-drinking is forbidden.   That could represent the single greatest influence on the data.
Could make for an interesting composite chart.

Curmudgeon said...

Sometimes I find it amazing so many people drink so little!

Tony said...

DAILY MAIL REPORTER = We better not put a name to this bullsh*t.

And the Beeb only reports what it is told to, and it must fit the agenda. Going slightly OT here DP but last weekend there was a meeting in Chantilly, VA with 140 of the most influential people in the world all meeting up for 4 DAYS (people that usually run their working days in 30 minute segments clearing thir diary's for 4 days, it was the annual Bilderberg meeting and also got zero coverage from the Beeb. If that was 140 "celebs" or sportsmen the Beeb would have been all over it like a rash. Anyway, I digress.

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX  13% of secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol
in the week prior to interview in 2010 compared with 18 per cent of
pupils in 2009 and 26 per cent in 2001.XX

I always find these "school children" numbers suspiscious.

In the dark and distant past, whilst I was still at school, if any one asked us if we drank alcohol, we would rather end up dead under a bloody no 10 bus than admit that we did NOT drink at LEAST 50% more beer/wine/whiskey than the person that was asked after, or before you.

If they expect "honesty" regarding drinking from pre-pubescent teenagers, then the data gatherers/analysts are 500% dummer than they would at first appear.

Carpe Zytha said...

Nobody drinks anymore apart from Mudge and his beer club, who dangerously binge to the point of requiring close government scrutiny.

JonathanBagley said...

I read about this a few days ago, so it was probably in the Times. There were reactions from various big names in the anti alcohol industry.

Ivan Denisovich said...

Nigel Hawkes covers the journalists dilemma over the admissions stats  rather well here:

I recommend that people trawl Straight Statistics for his articles (not just his blog) on this subject. Nigel is too polite as ever but the bottom line is that the public has been misled on both affordability and admissions data by the NHS for several years now. 

To put it briefly, the affordability index was a con because the way it was calculated ensures that alcohol became more affordable each year pretty much irrespective of its price or the economy.

The admissions data is also a con because it is not based on primary diagnosis meaning that a lung cancer patient is considered to be a percentage of an alcohol admission if he happens to have high blood pressure. Increased secondary diagnosis of hypertension is in fact the main driver behind the dramatic rises that so excite journalists.

We should be asking why the NHS has misled the public and even now has not properly corrected the data, why the mainstream media have not reported this, why our politicians are still waffling on about a hugely exaggerated crisis and why we are paying the salaries of those responsible.

Mag01 said...

Here’s a[nother] story that shows up the Tobacco Control
Industry for the stupid, dangerous twits they are.


According to the TC nincompoops, The Children™ are attracted
by the “glitzy” cigarette packaging, risking them becoming one of those “perverse”,
terrible smokers. So, the cigarette packs must be hidden from display, lest The
Children™ become overwhelmed with the desire to smoke. Then, let’s remove all
the seductive, tempting colours on the packs to Save® The Children™. Yet here
we have The Children™ now smoking [more than cigarettes] a substance
(marijuana) that isn’t on retail display, doesn’t come in glitzy packs (or
packs at all), and ......dare I say it..... is illegal for children and adults alike.
(I’m only guessing, but marijuana is probably cheaper than cigarettes, also
thanks to TC).

And The Children™ think marijuana is safer than tobacco. Given
the denormalization and inflammatory rhetoric surrounding tobacco, it wouldn’t
be surprising if The Children™ thought that heroin and cocaine..... or even drain
cleaner and sulfuric acid, or a petrol cocktail..... were safer than tobacco (and cheaper?).


Three cheers for the nitwits of Tobacco Control.


CDC: More US teens smoke marijuana than cigarettes

Furor Teutonicus said...

 There is also the fact, that at least when I was at school, and up until 20 years ago, when I left the U.K for good, by far  MOST of the bastards (MY "TM" translation of "children"), bought 20 loosies. Sold from under the counter either loose, as the name would indicate, or, for 5 pence extra, the shop keeper would supply a paper sweet bag.

If anything, they were more expensive than a pack, so the "price benefit effect" can not be blamed. But then neither can "Glitzy packets".

quibble said...

Winston Smith has a point about the possibility that people are lying more than they used to about their consumption, so to test that we can check the reported consumption against the sales data collected by customs and excise. This also shows a large and steady fall since the early 2000s. So unless people are fermenting it themselves on a huge and growing scale, the decline in drinking is probably true.