Yet another scare story about the dangers of alcohol:
- BBC: 210,000 people face alcohol death risk, warn doctors
- Independent: Doctors warn on alcohol deaths
- NHS Choices: Alcohol ‘could kill 210,000 in next 20 years’
What proportion of deaths is this?
This is about 10,500 people a year. Every year, more than 500,000 people die in the UK. So this is about 2% of all deaths!
(This is the lowest estimate for the proportion of deaths by alcohol that I’ve seen! Normally the figures tend to be about 3% overall, but typically 4% or more for men).
What about lives saved by alcohol?
There is lots of evidence that alcohol is really “a preventive medicine with significant bad side-effects” rather than an unmitigated health hazard. (Some puritans, sorry – “front-line health officials and politicians”, may disagree). This is especially true for diseases of old-age, especially for men. See such a list at Alcohol consumption – science and politics, under the heading “Epidemic?”
And it is also, of course, “a quality-of-life enhancer with various significant side-effects“.
This is a telling paper:
A comparison of the alcohol-attributable mortality in four European countries (Britton A et al) 2003:
“It was estimated that there are approximately 2% fewer deaths annually in England and Wales than would be expected in a non-drinking population”
Until the preventive effects are taken into account, the headline “210,000″ is pretty meaningless.
Here is my 3-part discussion on alcohol drinking guidelines: