Thursday 25 April 2024

More useless alcohol modelling

The 'public health' lobby has been spinning plates this week, trying to exploit the UK's rise in alcohol-specific deaths while claiming that minimum pricing is saving lives. Meanwhile, Colin Angus has admitted that a model he produced in 2022 completely failed to predict what was about to happen.

I've written about all this for The Critic...

The increase in deaths in 2022 is more of a puzzle. Although there were no Covid restrictions, higher rates of consumption among some drinkers continued. There is some evidence that the figure for 2023 will be lower, but there is no sign of it coming down to pre-Covid levels. The number of people drinking a dangerous amount of alcohol (not just exceeding the Chief Medical Officer’s ridiculous guidelines, but actually drinking more than is good for them) is still higher than in 2019.

The neo-temperance lobby has reacted in predictable fashion. Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, called for “proper regulation of alcohol marketing, clearer alcohol labelling, and a minimum price for a unit of alcohol”. In Scotland, where the alcohol-specific death rate is 56 per cent higher than in England, the state-funded pressure group Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems demanded “a package of measures which tackle pricing, marketing and availability of alcohol on a population-wide scale”. 

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. You can’t blame campaigners for not letting a crisis go to waste, but there are some glaring problems with both the diagnosis and the prescription here.

Firstly, Scotland already has a minimum price for alcohol...
An interesting sidenote is that Angus's model assumed that alcohol consumption rose during the pandemic. In fact, it fell. So why did he think it had risen? Because the number of problem drinkers had risen. It's circular logic based on blind faith in the single distribution theory. He and his team then modelled every conceivable scenario, including everybody returning to their pre-pandemic levels of drinking, nobody returning to their pre-pandemic levels of drinking, everybody drinking more than they did in 2020 and everybody drinking less than they did in 2019. Every model has been shown to be completely, hopelessly wrong. The proverbial dart-throwing chimp could have done a better job.

This garbage was funded by the supposedly cash-strapped NHS. As I say in the article, what was the point? Even if its predictions had been accurate, it wouldn't have helped in any way.

Do read it all.


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