Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Doctoring the figures

Last year, eyebrows were raised when the Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, announced that the alcohol guidelines for men were being reduced to a mere 14 units a week, the same as those for women. This is the equivalent of just six pints of ordinary-strength beer. This gave us one of the lowest maximum recommended figures in the developed world, and also made us one of the few countries not to set differential figures for men and women.

At the time, many people smelled a bit of a rat, and suspected that this was an example of “policy-based evidence-making” that rested on shaky scientific foundations. Now, after having used the Freedom of Information Act to do some digging around, Christopher Snowdon has uncovered the whole sorry saga of chicanery and arm-twisting that lies behind it.

You can read the full details here

Given such a tale of data being manipulated to suit a particular agenda, it is hardly surprising that more and more people have come to regard any official health advice with a huge amount of scepticism.

Of course, as Snowdon says in the article, many people will cheerfully ignore such guidelines. But the problem is that they will be used by government in policy-making, with one of the obvious results being to artificially inflate the number of “problem drinkers”. Plus it is highly misleading how they are so often described as “limits”, not just guidelines, and portrayed as a cliff-edge of risk rather than just a gentle uptick in the curve, if that.

Surely, in the light of such blatant massaging of the figures, it is time that Public Health England was seriously reined in, if not disbanded entirely. And I thought this would be a suitable expression of remorse from Dame Sally. Preferably using Old Tom.


  1. "This is the equivalent of just six pints of ordinary-strength beer."

    And I'm guessing that one day without a pint is supposed to be Sunday. /sarc

    I've noticed on the imported bottles of beer from Britain I buy over here in Canada that they show the "units" thing. Thank God that hasn't made it onto the bottles of Canadian made beer... yet. :)

    I'm surprised they don't start including a CO2 equivalent for the energy it takes to harvest the barley and hops, and boiling it all (plus transport delivery of course) to indicate how we are falling down on doing our part for the planet.

    Honestly, it's enough to drive a fellow to drink! (LOL)


    PS - Is your ordinary-strength 4% or 5%? Just curious.

  2. "Ordinary-strength" in the UK is 4%.

  3. Can you really trust someone who wants to stop a person’s tipple?


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