Feb 212012

Yet another scare story about the dangers of alcohol:

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.

Further reading

Here is my 3-part discussion on alcohol drinking guidelines:

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