A strong headline.
If it isn’t true, I can easily be sued for libel. I’m not expecting to be served legal papers any time soon, and that’s because of two news stories published today.
The first is from the hateful, fear-mongering Daily Mail. Under the headline ‘‘Meteoric rise’ in alcohol-related deaths’, the Mail gives a summary of Sir Ian Gilmore’s speech at a conference yesterday hosted by Alcohol Concern. In this speech he cites a ‘meteoric’ rise in deaths by liver disease, and we are told that alcohol-related hospital admissions are at an all-time high. The article also mentions a 2011 study showing that 30% of boys and 25% of girls claim to have been drunk in the last thirty days.
This all seems very clear. Except it isn’t.
Even if you don’t drink.
It goes beyond that – I’ve written here before about how if you have an accident or injury, and you have had a drink, your admission is alcohol-related even if that drink did not – could not – have been relevant. If you’re having a glass of wine in a restaurant and the roof caves in on you, for example, your injuries are alcohol-related.
So the body that releases the statistics is recalculating them because they are misleading, splitting out primary and secondary causes more clearly. Alcohol Concern and Ian Gilmore know this, even as they continue to cite these statistics.
But today’s report
reveals something even more extraordinary. Because even if you think the stats are accurate and true, as I’m sure Gilmore and Alcohol Concern do, according to the people who compile them, you cannot use them to suggest that alcohol related hospital admissions are increasing
– as Gilmore and friends frequently do. Here’s what a spokesperson for Public health England has to say:
Much of this increase is believed due to improvements in diagnosis and recording… these improvements mean that while recent estimates are likely to be a better reflection of the comorbidity [secondary disorders] associated with alcohol, estimates from earlier time periods are not directly comparable as they will have underestimated the number of secondary conditions related to alcohol. [My emphasis]
So, depending on whether you are pro- or anti-drink, either:
Gilmore and Alcohol Concern are talking bollocks because the official figures overestimate alcohol related hospital admissions
Gilmore and Alcohol Concern are talking bollocks because the official figures show an increase only because of improvements in measurement, not because of changes in behaviour.
Either way, these people know about this. They know they should not be using these figures to claim a rise in alcohol related hospital admissions. But they do it anyway, wilfully misleading the nation.
In addition, Gilmore and Alcohol Concern repeatedly avoid the medical fact that only around 37% of liver disease is primarily caused by alcohol – it’s also caused by Hepatitis C and obesity. They never refer to Britain’s rising obesity epidemic as a possible cause of rising liver disease. It must be alcohol consumption, even though that is declining long term.
Oh, and those figures above talking about the percentage of kids drinking? What the Mail refuses to tell you is that the survey from which they were taken showed a REDUCTION in underage drinking. That’s why they don’t tell you what the figure was a few years before.
We are being lied to. Tell everyone.