What are the doctors piffling about now?

Perhaps this is one for Chris Snowden as he knows his way aroiund the statistics better than I do. But this seems odd:

An alliance of more than 30 leading medical bodies and charities says Britain\’s \”alcohol problem\” has become so entrenched that drastic action – which would also include an end to sponsorship of sporting events – is required to protect children and teenagers.

Their submission to the House of Commons health select committee says the step is needed to tackle a growing burden on society, which costs almost 15,000 lives a year.

The ONS says that booze kills just under 9,000 a year, not 15,000. So where they got their number from I\’m not sure.

This looks even stranger:

Evidence submitted to MPs shows that alcohol has become the leading cause of deaths among young men, responsible for 27 per cent of fatalities among those aged 16 to 24.

Looking at the detailed figures this doesn\’t in fact seem to be true:

Suicide and injury/poisoning of undetermined intent 852 21%
Land transport accidents 536 13%
Accidental poisoning 393 10%

The percentage refers to total deaths in that age group.

Booze doesn\’t even make it into the top three causes let alone account for 27% of deaths is about that age range.

The only number I can see that might be related to it is:

The lowest male rate was in those aged 15–34; the rate for this group in 2010 was 2.7 per 100,000,

Please, they\’ve not confused a 2.7 per hundred thousand with 27% have they?

28 thoughts on “What are the doctors piffling about now?”

  1. Using potentially dodgy stats to call for a partial ban on alcohol advertising? No, they haven’t lifted that from the tobacco control template, honest!

  2. Perhaps the argument is
    ‘Suicide may be a result of alcoholism, so lets allocate 50 % of suicides to alcohol.
    Accidents may be alcohol related, so lets allocate 50% of accidents to alcohol. ‘
    That gives 22%, that’s near enough for prohibitionist maths.

  3. And next, fatty takeaways and ‘too large’ servings of fizzy drinks!

    Can we strangle them with the intestines of the ambulance-chasing lawyers, yet?

  4. It was probably on Mr Snowden’s blog that I learnt that the bansturbators’ logic was that the way to get people who drink far too much to drink less was to bully those who drink moderately to drink a bit less themselves. See? Easy-peasy.

  5. The clue lies in the weasel term “alcohol-related” – hence the figure of 15,000 such deaths despite the ONS figures of just below 9,000. And note that leading prohibitionist Sarah Wollaston claims 22,000 as the figure for alcohol-related deaths.

    These figures include assumptions that alcohol is a “factor” in a proportion of deaths from suicide, homicide, fire, drowning, heart attacks, stroke, cancer and so forth. There are some of these estimates here:


    Hope that helps – essentially the arch-prohibitionists Gilmore is making stuff up.

  6. The 27% is probably the number of people who were recorded by their GPs as drinking “too much”, whether or not it had anything to do with their deaths.

  7. Didn’t we decide there are no reliable numbers for death by alcohol?

    Given that a stroke is 50% fags, 25% booze (regardless of whether the person admitted has smoked or drank) how can you tell?

    So if the 9,000 is made up the 15,000 looks pretty shabby.

    As for booze killing young men, ho ho ho ho.

    Look into the eyes of a 22 year old who had 8 pints of lager and 22 tequila shots the night before and he’s bright as a bunny.

    To see the eyes of a 45 year old who’d done that, first you have to pry the eyelids open with a crowbar…

  8. “The 27% is probably the number of people who were recorded by their GPs as drinking “too much”..”

    The definition of ‘too much’ being ‘more than the doctor’.

  9. It’s so reassuring to know, as a drinker (heavily if someone else is buying) I am such a truly wonderful person. My driving skills are perfect, I never expose myself to risks & my health is exemplary.
    If it wasn’t for the booze………

  10. I suppose it is altogether too difficult to suggest educating people to not be so susceptible to peer pressure and advertising. But then, they wouldn’t fall for government propaganda either.

    Are these chumps in the pay of Big Alcohol? Banning advertising in certain areas of life benefits the drinks companies by reducing their need to compete with each other for attention.

  11. Julia
    The definition of ‘too much’ being ‘more than the doctor’.

    lol, but actually no. I’m a medical student. As you may know, the “limits” are 166g of ethanol per week for men and 110g per week for women, so a bloke would exceed his government allowance by drinking 8 pints of 5% abv per week.

    Since we are taught to always double what the patient says because everyone lies, a man who says he drinks 1 pint every other day is assumed to mean 2 pints every other day, or 1 pint every day, so that gets recorded as “too much”.

    Most doctors drink 2 glasses of wine every night and get totally pissed when they aren’t on call, so if they set their own level of drinking as the bar, everyone would be practically teetotalers.

  12. Philip Scott Thomas


    Since we are taught to always double what the patient says because everyone lies

    You are Dr Gregory House and I claim my five pounds. 🙂

  13. The ONS’s definition of an alcohol-related death “only includes deaths where the cause is specifically or predominantly related to alcohol consumption and is also the underlying or main cause of death. Using the current ONS definition, in England, in 2010 there were 6,669 deaths directly related to alcohol. This is a 22% increase since 2001 when there were 5,476 alcohol related deaths and a 1.3% increase from 2009 when there were 6,584 such deaths.”

    However, as Simon and Alex point out, there is also a system of ‘attributable fractions’ which assumes that, for example, 20% of suicides, 15% of stomach cancers and 30% of deaths from extreme cold are alcohol-related. Using this system, the North West Public Health Observatory estimated that there were 15,000 deaths in 2009. Unsurprisingly, the forces of temperance prefer this higher figure.

    These estimates are based on epidemiological studies, not coroners’ reports, and are only as good as the studies they’re based on. I’ve written about this before, with particular regard to hospital admissions which vary enormously depending on the system of measurement.


  14. Jack: that’s interesting. The reason why the limits are set at less than half the amount that causes any harm is also because of the “lying down to your doctor / yourself” problem – so (unless people actually understate their consumption by 75%), the double-adjustment means the stats are clearly bollocks.

  15. Philip Scott Thomas

    Surreptitious Evil

    House is dead.

    Ah, but since House was modeled after Sherlock Holmes (House/Holmes, Wilson/Watson – geddit?), is he? Is he really?

    Remember Scandal In Bohemia.

  16. I want my doctor to treat me based on accurate facts, so I only report half of my actual alcohol consumption to her. If everyone did this, the reported alcohol consumption problem would near-vanish. Job done!
    Of course, the bansturbators would then cotton on and demand the doctors use a 4-multiple rather than a 2-multiple…

  17. Nurse: “How tall are you?”
    Me: “Six two and a half.”
    Her: “Oh no, you’re at least six four!”
    Me: “No, it’s just that everyone else who’s told you he’s six four is actually about six two and a half.”

    Still, I read somewhere that Americans add on two and a half inches.

  18. I lose count of the amount of alcohol I’ve consumed after the first couple of drinks…..

  19. The RCP submission is here. It says

    It should also be noted that the majority of young people confine their drinking to binges once or twice each week. These are associated with health harms including accidents, violence, self harm and suicide and as a result alcohol is the leading cause of death in the 16-24 age group

    There’s a supporting reference to the 2008 Alcohol Attributable Fractions paper, which says

    among 16-24 year old males, 26.6% of all deaths were estimated to be attributable to alcohol consumption

    The same paper reports that

    Based on the AAFs calculated, 14,982 deaths were estimated to be attributable to alcohol consumption, representing 3.1% of all deaths in England in 2005

    However, as I am not the only one to point out, the Alcohol Attributable Fractions methodology is dismally poor.

  20. So if a suicidal chap has a few drinks for Dutch courage before attempting the deed, then the AAF count that as an alcohol-induced fatality? Twats.

  21. john b: it’s worse than that. What they did for suicides was take some data from Australia for the proportion of suicides caused by alcohol in 1995. Then they applied that to the number of suicides in England in 2005. And the results get reported as fact in 2012.

    How the Australians got their AAF I have not been able to determine. There is an obvious difficulty for suicides that correlation may not imply causation, as you point out.

  22. Erm….it seems that everybody and their dog (bar the cleverer rejoinderers) on this faeces of a comment ‘internet-discussion ‘forum” understands anything fucking human.

    Your communal denial of alcoholism is pathetic.

    I don’t agree with bans on recreationals, I’m a fucking libertarian, you unintelligent numbskulls, but when a drug becomes so interwoven into human behaviour there is no soft touch to remove it.

    How many people have you cared for that have died directly as a cause of legal drug abuse?

    Who are you to judge those that work directly in the field of care for addicts and their relations that reckon it’s just just too easy to slip through and die from drug abuse “oh they were a right character”?

    No bans, no. But none of this “the State should stop raping my daughter in order to stop immigrants farting”.

    Fuck right off.

    Without the NHS more would die, more commit crime, and more would fucking hate your fucking guts.

    Most of you.

    Well said paul b. at least that’s balanced against these constant mind-numbing shits.

  23. Your communal denial of alcoholism is pathetic.

    It might well have been, if there was, in fact, any denial of alcoholism anywhere in the above post or comments. Nobody, until you, mentions alcoholism. Just as nobody mentioned immigration. You really are an ignorant, angry pillock.

    And for some reason you think Paul B is supporting your distorted views?

    I’m a fucking libertarian

    Is that an early contender of outrageous claim of the century? You are a statist, socialist, Frenchman. There isn’t a single libertarian sinew in your barely-cartilaginous frame.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *