Sunday, January 17, 2010

Booze consumption

As someone pointed out on the last post, booze consumption in this country is slightly over-egged. Luckily, John B has looked at a report on the whole situation.
The BBC has an article based on an interesting House of Commons report on alcohol consumption… well, more accurately, it’s a very bad report on alcohol consumption with some interesting data.

The data shows that, before the global descent into miserable puritanism around World War I that led to prohibition in the US and draconian licensing rules in the UK, alcohol consumption was around its current level.

It then spiked after the war ended, fell during the Depression, rose slightly during the mid-late 1930s and WWII, fell in the austerity period, and then rose fairly consistently from 1950 onwards—accelerating slightly since 1995 due to increased wine consumption. We’re now at about 9 litres of pure alcohol per head per year, compared to 11 litres in 1900.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that, with miserable busybodies out of the equation, 10ish litres per head is the natural level that Brits want to drink, that this is all well and good, and that the puritans should be deported to America on pain of pain, as we did in the good old days.

The House of Commons report instead draws the conclusion that OMG FFS AAAGH the sky is falling. Particular stupidity lies in:
Ten million adults drink more than the recommended limits and between them knock back 75% of all alcohol consumed in the country. More than two-and-a-half million adults (8% of men and 6% of women) drink above the higher-risk levels – more than double the government’s daily guidelines.

… but we know that the daily and weekly guidelines are based on *nothing at all*. And we know that, on aggregate, the only people who show a greater risk of mortality or morbidity from alcohol than teetotallers are those who drink more than 30 units a week, which is equivalent to 17 litres of pure alcohol a year. So we can crank up our national drinking by another 70% before we need to start worrying about health impacts.

Exactly. I hope that the above has cleared up this issue.

Please note that none of this is going to stop the temperance crusaders from attempting to make booze a lot more expensive with the aim, eventually, of banning it.

And we all know what a success banning alcohol and other drugs has been. I, for one, welcome our new Puritan overlords and will happily toil soberly in the brave new Utopia that our lords and masters are building for us—whether we like it or not...


Shaun Pilkington said...

"in the brave new Utopia that our lords and masters are building for us"

They're building IT for US? Really? I coulda sworn they keep trying to remake US for IT!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Yup. You can seldom fault John B on factual summaries.

Dave said...

Historical comparisons of alcohol consumption are flawed because ale was drunk as a substitute for water, which if untreated, would make you ill or even kill you.
The brewing process killed the bugs.

That said, there has been a fundamental change in the nation's drinking habits in the last 20 years, particularly among the young.

Way back in the middel of the last century when I started drinking, we'd go out for a drink.
These days they go out to get drunk.

There's a difference.

Perhaps more research should be done into why our young people use drink and drugs so ferociously and so self-destuctively?
And not waste time comparing chalk and cheese.

Dick Puddlecote said...

You beat me to it, DK.

Dave, while you do have a point that the 'problem' is being attacked from the wrong starting point and using the wrong methods, the timeframe currently being attacked is from 1980 onwards. There was no difference in the 80s in young people going out to get drunk, I can personally assure you.

I suspect it has always been so for very many, it's just that they didn't generally cause trouble to others when totally shit-faced.

As usual, the modern politicians tries to game a problem with a stick, instead of engaging a bit of thought and a carrot.

Anonymous said...

my brother has been drinking heavily since 1972, and he,s in better condition than teetotaler me, i think most medical advice is total bollocks!

Vicola said...

"Way back in the middel of the last century when I started drinking, we'd go out for a drink.
These days they go out to get drunk."

According to my father, whose teenage years were the late 60s/ early 70s, they were going out to get smashed back in his youth. So it's definately not a new thing.

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