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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Misleading statistics
« on: 06/09/2007 06:58:17 »
This is sort-of science-related, so I think this is the right forum.

"Binge drinking". Sounds bad, doesn't it. We've probably all seen it on TV - drunks staggering around in the street etc. But what does binge drinking actually mean?

Well, according to the Institute of Child Health in London, it means "...two or more episodes of consuming four or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks". What? Are they serious?

During the summer of 2004 I spent a lot of time down by my local river with my dogs - practically every day, in fact. I would nearly always take a 6-pack with me. So, I'd spend almost all day chilling out in peaceful surroundings, quaffing 6 cans of lager. Does that mean I'm a binge drinker?

In my opinion, this is an example of how sensationalist headlines & scaremongering are thrown at us in order to deliberately mislead. Unfortunately, the general public are not made aware of definitions and criteria, and believe without question the figures that are presented to them.

The same is true of drink-drive incidents. The government & police trumpet out the figures (x number of drink-related accidents last year) without making clear their criteria for what constitutes a drink-related accident. If a pedestrian has been drinking and walks out in front of a car driven by a teetotaller, for instance, that is classed as a drink-related accident. Well, yes, I suppose it is. But the figures are presented as if all drink-related accidents refer to the driver having been drinking.

I appreciate that drink-driving is wrong; but I do wish those who produce the figures & statistics wouldn't deliberately try to mislead us. Criteria should be presented to the public along with conclusions in order to give a clear understanding of exactly what the research shows.

Rant over  [:(!]


 

lyner

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #1 on: 06/09/2007 14:37:39 »
Do you not think there is some connection with this, as you say ' dodgy' statistic and what we see - and we do see it in most town centres on Friday and Saturday evenings? Far more kids drink far more than they ever used to - statistical 'fact' and readily observable and confirmed.

If a drunk pedestrian walks out in front of a sober driver, he stands a much better chance of surviving than if it were the other way round. But it wouldn't be a bad thing if pedestrians who cause accidents were penalised, too.

I, also, find that I fall into the category of 'binge drinker', every  so often; it doesn't take much, because it's an arbitrary quantity and it is on the low side. However, it doesn't make me paranoid that someone is just out to criticise me. I just moderate my behaviour a bit. Not a bad idea, really.



 

another_someone

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #2 on: 06/09/2007 16:35:28 »
There are two issues with this.

Firstly, I think I have exceeded 3 drinks in a row only twice in my life - so it is unlikely to effect my behaviour in that respect; but then I would ask why you need other people to tell you how to behave (either the behaviour is meaningful to you, or it is not - but simply blindly following other people's prescriptions for how you should live is somewhat shirking your own responsibility for your life - and in any case, what may be right for someone else may not necessarily be right for you - I would be far more concerned with an anorexic young woman drinking 4 drinks that an obese older man).

The other issue (and this is not unique to these statistics, but to most statistics used for political aims) is that it brings statistics into disrepute, thus making it more difficult to use statistics where they would be meaningful.
 

Offline eric l

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #3 on: 06/09/2007 19:30:19 »
This is always the case when one uses statistics to PROVE something rather than to INVESTIGATE.  It is very easy to manipulate statistics just to prove a point. 
You can compare this to a widespread practice in quality control :  if your test result is within the specification, there is no need to double check; but double checking is the first thing you do when a result is out of specification.  You get mighty fine statistics that way.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #4 on: 06/09/2007 21:46:43 »
Do you not think there is some connection with this, as you say ' dodgy' statistic and what we see - and we do see it in most town centres on Friday and Saturday evenings? Far more kids drink far more than they ever used to - statistical 'fact' and readily observable and confirmed.

If a drunk pedestrian walks out in front of a sober driver, he stands a much better chance of surviving than if it were the other way round. But it wouldn't be a bad thing if pedestrians who cause accidents were penalised, too.

I, also, find that I fall into the category of 'binge drinker', every  so often; it doesn't take much, because it's an arbitrary quantity and it is on the low side. However, it doesn't make me paranoid that someone is just out to criticise me. I just moderate my behaviour a bit. Not a bad idea, really.


I have nothing against highlighting & addressing the problem of younger people getting absolutely paralytic on a regular basis; and, yes, it certainly is more prevalent these days. My psychology background is in dependence/addiction so I have an interest in it. My problem is with the way the figures are presented.

By a) presenting figures that aren't explained and b) setting the criterion so low, those producing the figures are giving a totally false impression of the problem.

You are right in saying that it's an arbitrary quantity and, like you, I think it is somewhat on the low side. I certainly do not feel guilty about the amount I drink. I like a good drink but I don't have a drink problem.

I appreciate that some people may think that 4 drinks is a lot. But regular drinkers certainly would not. I sure as hell wouldn't call going out on a Friday & Saturday and having 4 drinks each night "binge drinking". And without doubt, those drunks you see staggering around town centres have had a lot more than 4 drinks.

I used to sometimes drink in a pub that had quite a few younger drinkers in it. Many of them would start drinking early in the day and they wouldn't just stick to ordinary beer or lager. You hear them at the bar, "What's the strongest spirit you've got?", "Got any Absinthe?", "Sambuca?", "tequila?". They'd have a pint of Stella or Kronie (both strong lagers) and a short each round. By 8pm they were in the kind of state where most drinkers would think they'd had enough.

So, 4 drinks a problem? No, not at all except, as George mentioned, if it's an anorexic.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2007 21:49:09 by DoctorBeaver »
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #5 on: 07/09/2007 00:00:47 »
The problem is how quick do you drink them.  My understanding is that you metabolise alcohol at a rate of about one unit every hour so if you drunk one can every hour or two over the whole day that would not count as a binge.  If however you drunk four pints in an hour.  That is quite a serious binge although a regular serious drinker would not think that this was very great because they would drink at that rate for several hours before they became totally incapable.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #6 on: 07/09/2007 07:44:16 »
Ian - I agree; but there was no mention of timescale in the report. It just said "4 drinks in a row..."
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #7 on: 07/09/2007 09:29:53 »
My limited understanding of the youth binge drinking cult is that one gets several good strong drinks down your throat as quick as possible to get an alcohol "hit" and then slacks off a bit to maintain the state but that often goes wrong.  Are there heavy binge drinking clubbers around prepared to confirm the current youth habits?
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #8 on: 07/09/2007 10:34:25 »
My limited understanding of the youth binge drinking cult is that one gets several good strong drinks down your throat as quick as possible to get an alcohol "hit" and then slacks off a bit to maintain the state but that often goes wrong.  Are there heavy binge drinking clubbers around prepared to confirm the current youth habits?

Where's Neil when you need him!  ;D
 

lyner

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #9 on: 07/09/2007 18:12:49 »
Trouble is that you can't tell kids anything.
Hit them with statistics or just tell them not to do something. It's all the same.
It seems a bit the same with older people too:
It worries me that so many of these posts have been very defensive about quantities and personal drinking habits. There's lots of evidence that regular - even less than  binge  drinking levels are still not good for you.   You don't have to get in a state to be doing your liver harm.
There is a finite risk involved with even low levels of regular alcohol intake. Does anyone not agree?
I speak as one who over - indulged a bit last night and I am still feeling  the effects. But at least I am admitting that it wasn't too sensible of me.

 

another_someone

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #10 on: 07/09/2007 18:47:35 »
There is a finite risk to almost any activity.

I do not like overindulgence in alcohol, whether by myself or by others in my vicinity; but none of us is immortal, so I have difficulty simply arguing that you should not do A or B, because doing it will cause your death - you will die whether you do it or not.

The issue should be more about what gives you the better quality of life, rather than what gives you a better approximation to immortality.

To me, the reason why I don't like intoxication is because it amounts to (in my perception - and it is personal) a running away from life, and because it loses you control over your life, rather than because it will kill you.
 

Offline DrDick

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #11 on: 07/09/2007 19:46:50 »
You can compare this to a widespread practice in quality control :  if your test result is within the specification, there is no need to double check; but double checking is the first thing you do when a result is out of specification.  You get mighty fine statistics that way.

This doesn't sound like very good QC work to me.  When I used to work for a manufacturing company, QC tests were always run in triplicate (except for simple things like visual color determination).

Dick
 

lyner

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #12 on: 10/09/2007 13:09:58 »
Quote
because doing it will cause your death - you will die whether you do it or not.
But I would rather die later, rather than sooner because of my lack of care.
We all do the green cross code, don't we?
But, as you say, quality of life comes into it. But what about smoking? Does smoking really give smokers a better quality of life? Many of them claim that it does. Most of us, non-smokers, would advise them otherwise - and feel righteously smug at the same time!
As a matter of fact, the occasional 'lack of control' of your life can be quite pleasant. Ever jumped off a high board or out of an airoplane?  You have very little control of the direction you go and it is fun.
 

another_someone

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Misleading statistics
« Reply #13 on: 10/09/2007 13:36:40 »
Quote
because doing it will cause your death - you will die whether you do it or not.
But I would rather die later, rather than sooner because of my lack of care.
We all do the green cross code, don't we?
But, as you say, quality of life comes into it. But what about smoking? Does smoking really give smokers a better quality of life? Many of them claim that it does. Most of us, non-smokers, would advise them otherwise - and feel righteously smug at the same time!

I have two reasons for advising against smoking (but they are personal to my own perspective):

a) It's effects on non-smokers (in a way that alcohol does not have, although you can argue that drunkenness in a public place may have an effect on others, but even that is not inevitable (many drunks, simply go quiet), but a single drink has no secondary effect in the way that a single cigarette has in public).  This is not particularly an issue with smoking as such, but one of smoking in public.

b) That it is addictive (far more so than alcohol, or even many banned drugs), and so causes a loss of control of one's own life.  For some people, who clearly can control their addictions, it is questionable how much this is an issue, but I have in the past known people who could not spend a few hours without a cigarette (and thus, since I am physically intolerant of  cigarette smoke, it meant they and I could not share the same space for any length of time).

As a matter of fact, the occasional 'lack of control' of your life can be quite pleasant. Ever jumped off a high board or out of an airoplane?  You have very little control of the direction you go and it is fun.

Done neither - but then maybe I am more of a control freak than many.

Would have like to try parachuting once, but my weight these days would argue against it - but to me, the fun would not be the loss of control, but in learning to maintain control under unusual circumstances.
 

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Misleading statistics
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