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It works the other way around you blithering idiots!

OK, so people do, umm, \”misremember\” how much they drink. And if we look at the total amount that is sold we find out that some people, somewhere, are drinking more than the surveys say people drink.

Nationwide surveys that purport to show the ‘average’ man and women drink much less than the recommended weekly limit are seriously flawed, according to public health experts at University College London.

In these surveys, people only admit to drinking about 60 per cent of the amount that actually gets bought, said the researchers.

Unless vast amounts are getting spilled or poured down plugholes, the discrepancy suggests people are being economical with the truth when it comes to their drinking habits.

The implication is that far more people are binge drinking than current estimates predict – particularly affluent women.

In addition, the research suggests the ‘average’ drinker is actually knocking back at least the weekly limit, week-in week-out, and probably more.

OK, take out the emotional language there and we\’re all agreed. Total alcohol consumption by one measure is higher than alcohol consumption by another. It\’s the implications of this that are important:

Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the study estimated 44 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women were exceeding weekly alcohol consumption guidelines.

“This contradicts the claims of the alcohol industry that only a small minority drink too much, and is yet more evidence of the need for strong government action, including a minimum unit price for alcohol,” he said.

\”The UK’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol is putting more and more strain on our hospitals as we struggle to cope with the rising tide of harm caused to health by alcohol misuse.\”

No you blithering idiot, it works the other way around. For we also have the actual figures for how much damage is done by alcohol consumption, we have the NHS records. If we compare that total damage done to what people say they drink then we get one level of sensitivity, of consumption to damage. However, if we compare that higher total amount sold to that same amount of damage done then we get a different sensitivity. And that sensitivity is lower. We are getting the same amount of damage from a greater amount of alcohol consumption. Therefore alcohol is less dangerous than we thought it was before.

The policy implications of that being that we need to worry less about how much people drink. The case for minimum pricing is weakened.

Just in case there are any public health fools who read this blog (unlikely, I know) try this.

We know the numbers of exploding livers, that\’s from the NHS stats. We have two estimations of how much booze is drunk. What people say and the higher, what is actually sold (and if we\’re honest, there\’s a thid, even higher number, adding in that which is bought and shipped in from the EU, either legally or illegally).

So, just to give some pretend numbers. Under the first reported drinking volumes, 0.6 of consumption leads to 1.0 exploded liver (or fractions of, units, whatever). Under the second, looking at legal sales, 1.0 of consumption leads to 1.0 of exploding livers. (And presumably, adding in EU sales, 1.3 or something of consumption leads to 1.0 of liver kablooie).

That is what has been found from the above revelations.

And the implication of this is that alcohol consumption is less dangerous in terms of liver fricassee than was previously thought. Thus the case for limiting alcohol consumption is weaker than it was.

Blimey, don\’t they teach logic in medical schools?

30 thoughts on “It works the other way around you blithering idiots!”

  1. “Blimey, don t they teach logic in medical schools?”

    The essence of that question is should medicine be regarded as a scientific or arts discipline. There s considerable evidence, at the doctoring level anyway, of it being the latter. In the sense, rather than matters being considered on a falsifiable hypothesis basis, something you so elegantly did, it’s more a matter of “it s an outstanding production coz we, the cognoscenti, all say it is.”

  2. Bear in mind also that the NHS figures are massaged by putting in an alcohol fudge factor on all admissions of certain accidents or diseases, thus Type 2 diabetes is assumed to be affected by alcohol as a matter of course, even if the patient is a life-long teetotaller. Pure political manipulation by the roundheads.

  3. Not forgetting that the “recommended limits” have no basis in science either – they were made up on the spur of the moment in answer to a journalist’s question.

  4. The survey probably asked how many units people consumed, and since no-one has much idea what a unit is…

    IIRC, the real ‘recommended limits’ turned out to be so high that the DoH had to invent lower ones!

  5. I admire your valiant application of logic, but it’s as useful as eating Mama’s chicken soup with a fork.

    As above commenters have said:

    We don’t know how much people drink

    We don’t know how many hospital admissions truly relate to the evil stuff

    We don’t know a “safe” (an idiotic presumption in the first place) level of alcohol consumption.

    The sum of human knowledge has been increased by not even 3/5 of 5/8 of fuck all.

    Because we already knew that people like Sir DT (ho, ho , ho) tend to be lying bastards.

  6. Nothing to do with the above, by Iain Martin’s Telegraph blog carries a reference to ‘Noble economist Paul Krugman,’ meaning, presumably, ‘Nobel laureate, economist PK.’ I do Martin the honour of assuming it’s the subeditors’ fault.

  7. DocBud, you can claim responsibility for the “missing” consumption of UK sales. Tim’s third category (imported legally from the EU) is mine.

    And the best thing is, I won’t be affected by minimum pricing.

  8. ….Heavy drinkers also tend to avoid taking part in surveys like the General Lifestyle Survey…..

    They have better things to do 😉

  9. I have to agree no one has any idea what a “unit” is and when I first moved to blighty I had no idea what anyone was going on about.

    In Australia the measure is the “standard drink”. A standard drink is one glass of beer (375ml), 1 glass of wine (125 ml) or one shot of spirits (30ml).

    It was perfectly possible to stay under the drink driving limit if men had 2 standard drinks in the first hour and one each hour thereafter, while for women it was 1 in the first and 1 each hour thereafter.

    Pretty easy to manage really. Over here it is a complete mystery.

  10. No Tim. They do not teach logic at medical schools. Medics are not scientists nor statisticians nor economists. The bad ones think that they are and the good ones accept that they are good at medicine.

  11. Seriously. He objected to my drinking a glass of wine with dinner “five or six times a week”. “Have one every day” he said “you’ll enjoy it and it will be kinder to your liver”.

    Still a pretty modest intake, I’m sure you’ll agree.

  12. Onshore Observer: bit confused by your confusion. Units and “standard drinks” are exactly the same sort of measure. A UK unit is 1oml of alcohol; an
    Aussie standard drink is 12.5ml (10g) of alcohol.

    UK spirits measures are smaller than Australian measures by almost the same ratio as unit size (25ml vs 30ml), and beer in the UK is also traditionally weaker than beer in Australia by about the same ratio.

    But in both cases, the whole point of a unit/standard drink is that it’s a typical small drink: a single shot in either country, a midi (ie half pint/285ml – not a 375ml schooner) of standard lager in Australia, and a half pint of bitter in the UK.

  13. I should’ve said Great Britain. When spirits measures went metric, the standard measure in GB became 25ml, with pubs allowed to use 35ml instead if they wished. Presumably most Scots pubs have kept 35ml to avoid riot. In NI the only permitted measure is 35ml.

  14. As a few people have said (some joking, but I think it’s a serious point), heavy drinkers could account for a lot of that gap. A functional alcoholic can easily go through 30-40 units daily (I did, until I became non-functional). And believe me, you lie about it to everyone. Because you become very tolerant to the effects, you get away with it too – yes, people can smell the booze, but they believe your “10 or so” based on your behaviour. I wonder if the authors of the study controlled for this?

  15. A unit of alcohol is 10ml. So a 500ml can of lager at 5.2% has 500 * 5.2% = 26ml = 2.6 units. Simple

  16. Oh, and another thing that would make this effect even worse – teetotalers are very unlikely to lie about their (non)drinking habits. But heavy drinkers are likely to under-report. The general populace may well be telling the truth. It wouldn’t take many of one or the other to throw the estimate wildly off.

  17. Pingback: What the alcohol survey actually shows | Madsen Pirie

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