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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Scaremongering?

From an ITV news website report today:

"The South East of England has the most "high risk" drinkers in England, with more than 1.6 million consuming dangerous levels of alcohol on a daily basis, fresh data has revealed."

OMG!


"Research from the charity Alcohol Concern showed there at least 1.6 million "high or increasing risk" drinkers living in the wealthiest corner of England."

There are 8.7m people in the South East of England, so that means 18% of people in the South East of England, nearly a fifth, are "at risk"!

"High risk drinking is defined as people who have more than six to eight units of alcohol each day, while increasing risk is more than two to four units a day."

Hang on a minute. What? 

Does this mean high risk drinking is 6 to 8 units a day or more than 8 units a day? And are increasing risk drinkers drinking 2 to 4 units a day or more than 4 units a day?

According to the report if you are part of the "increasing risk" group of drinkers, you are drinking at dangerous levels. Yet "increasing risk" is defined as "more than two to four units a day". Is that 3? or 5?

Drinking "more than two units" and you are "at risk"? At risk of what? There are 2.2 units in this bottle of Doombar

4.3% vol, 500ml bottle.
According to the drinkaware website (which is funded by the drinks industry), drinking one of these a day marks you out as a lower risk drinker.
As it says on the drinkaware website: "No level of drinking is considered risk free". Well this is perfectly true. But as we know, breathing air also carries a risk, so no level of not drinking is risk free either.
So what is the real risk to our health of a bottle of Doom Bar a day?
According to the Alcohol Concern website (which is not funded by the drinks industry), a bottle of Doom Bar a day is actually well within "sensible drinking limits" for both men and women.
Yet according to today's report, people who drink a bottle of Doom Bar might be statistically part of the 1.6m "high or increasing risk" drinkers in the South East of England. 

Certainly anyone who drinks two bottles of Doom Bar a day is at "increasing risk". Really?

Now you're in trouble.
The South East of England has the highest population of any part of Britain. So it's unsurprising it has the highest number of people drinking at "increasing or high" risk levels. It has the largest number of people.
The South East also has the highest life expectancy for men. This must be in spite of our alcohol consumption. The South East also has the second highest life expectancy for women in the country (by 0.1 of a year from the South West, that well known bunch of teetotallers). 
I am not in any way disputing the statistics, and I don't have a problem with the way they are reported. I would just suggest our public health messages around alcohol are close to meaningless.

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