Monday, 21 February 2011

The New Maths: small number x big number = big number: Shock.

It's difficult to fight this level of propaganda, as trailed on R4 this morning:

Poor alcohol regulation could cost up to 250,000 lives in England and Wales over the next 20 years, doctors warn. Writing in The Lancet, leading liver disease specialists say measures including a minimum price of 50p per unit are urgently needed...

Hold it right there!

250,000 (being a wild estimate) divided by 20 = 12,500. There are about 500,000 deaths in the UK every year, from whatever causes, so even if they were right (and they aren't), they are talking about 2.5% of all deaths, which is within the bounds of measuring error anyway.

In any event, the rather more reliable NSO reckon that there are currently 9,000 'alcohol-related deaths' a year in the UK, and even those figures are dubious as they claim that the number of 'alcohol-related deaths' more than doubled since 1992.

So the Bansturbators-at-large aren't even talking about an actual reduction of 12,500 a year, they are talking about the reduction of a hypothetical increase.

In related news: "Smoking set to kill entire UK population over next six centuries".


dearieme said...

“All medical research is rubbish” is a better approximation to the truth than almost all medical research.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Exactly my thought process when I saw that figure. They're what tobacco controllers called 'jumbo jet' numbers, I believe. It's yet another con trick picked up from the anti-smoking template.

Deniro said...

Talking of propoganda , did you notice that the article took the propoganda form, where the conclusion is presented in the premise. The article is an argument for more alcohol regulation, but the first line describes the current regulations as poor as a starting point rather than a conclusion.

Mark Wadsworth said...

D, yes, in most cases it's all rubbish, but there must be some honest researchers out there who genuinely find out something new, but what's the point in publishing findings unless it chimes in with Political Correctness Du Jour?

DP, do they actually have the nerve to call them 'jumbo jet numbers'?

Den, the giveaway for me is that the article ends with a govt. spokesman agreeing that "More must be done".

Span Ows said...



Made my week already.

neil craig said...

It also would require intended government regulations to end all (well 139% of all) alcohol deaths which I suspect is out by at least 2 orders of magnitude.

banned said...

Meanwhile Dark Lochnagar has found something that causes more throat cancer than smoking

throat cancer killer, caution, a bit rude

dearieme said...

"there must be some honest researchers out there who genuinely find out something new": och, they'll just be dismissed as "not mainstream". Try reading about the Aussie chap who thought that peptic ulcers were not all Your Fault For Getting Yourself Stressed but just the result of bacteria.

Anonymous said...

I had better apologise before anything else, only I am a bit thick and these no doubt impeccable statistics being thrown around witrh gay abandon in every article about this news story have me a tad confused ..

According to lead spokesprof Sir Ian - should the UK follow France and introduce "strict marketing restrictions" on alcohol, such as a 50p a unit minimum pricing then, he predicts "the UK could reduce the current level of deaths from liver disease of 11 per 100,000 by a third".

So down to 8 per 100,000 - and as we have been informed that 500,000 (or so) exit this mortal coil every year, that suggests to me that would suggest a grand total of 15 people less a year dying of liver disease, although again given how lead spokesprof Sir Ian came across on the radio, as all deaths from liver disease can in some way be attributed to alcohol, if alcohol was banned entirely, not available in any form ever, that would "save" 55 lives a year - a figure which I felt sure I had sen or heard before - and sure enough I managed to find the quote "Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said that the introduction of a minimum price per alcohol unit in Scotland would mean 50 fewer deaths, 1,200 fewer hospital admissions, and 400 fewer violent crimes in only its first year of operation." You know what, I am confused. Is someome making up stats as they go along ? I only ask because according to the spokesprof "if nothing is done, deaths from all alcohol-related causes - including cancers and road accidents - could claim the lives of 250,000 people in England and Wales over the coming two decades". So if we bring in a minimum price per unit of 50p will it save 15 lives, 50 lives or 12,500 lives a year - and how many of those outside Scotland ?

Mark Wadsworth said...

SO, my pleasure.

NC, that's why they have to forecast a 100% per cent increase first before promising that deaths will be 139% lower than 200%.

B, keep quiet about that one.

D, I vaguely remember that one.

Anon, you have cracked the code! It is all completely made up.

Dick Puddlecote said...

"DP, do they actually have the nerve to call them 'jumbo jet numbers'?"

Yes, in tobacco control seminars and advisory material, they refer to aggregating small risks into large scary figures as 'jumbo jet numbers' - it's similar to the trick of mentioning terrifying substances like Polonium and Arsenic in cigarettes without adding that the dose is so miniscule that you'd have to smoke about 20 billion of themm before reaching any meaningful level of toxicity.

TheFatBigot said...

And we mustn't forget that if deaths (accurately or bogusly) attributed to booze fell by whatever number is being asked for today, the whole exercise will be repeated tomorrow in the brainless cause of having no deaths related to booze at all.

Only prohibition will satisfy these smug idiots, except that it won't satisfy them because it won't eliminate booze any more than it did in the US in the early 20th century. They will still demand milk from the tax teat to feed claims for ever greater enforcement against prohibition breakers.

Bayard said...

You can't really blame the "smug idiots". They get a nice income, plenty of ego-massage and a chance to get other people to do what they (the idiots) want them to do, i.e.power. For them, what's not to like?
The ones that should be execrated are the real idiots who give them the money and the other idiots who take any notice of what they say.