Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Booze Britain statistics: Staggering, unsteady or falling?

Reports about us boozey Brits once again made the news yesterday.

But rather than dwelling again on the fascination such stories hold for the press, it is worth looking at the source of these reports.

Yes, the Department of Health (DoH) report cited by Dailies Mail and Telegraph does say that our 15-16 year olds are either close to or top of the alcohol 'league of shame' in Europe. That is that more than fifteen percent of 15 year old girls admitted to having had five or more drinks on one occasion in the preceding month. Or at least they were five years ago.

As Full Fact have already said. The figures themselves are more are less legit.

But what it also says, further into the document, and to less fanfare is the following:

"Survey data on drinking by 11-15 year olds suggests some reasons for encouragement, but with continuing concerns. While fewer young people are drinking, those who drink do have not reduced how much they drink."

Going back to the source they reference, namely the 2010 Survey of Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England, the news sounds even more positive.

"In 2010, 13% of pupils said they had drunk alcohol in the last week. This is lower than in 2009 when it was 18%, and continues the downward trend seen from 2001."

The Office for National Statistics takes it even further back saying the 2010 figure was the lowest since 1996.

However they stress that the 2010 figure may turn out to be an anomaly, but nevertheless the trend is still there. Due to a change in methodology there is no trend data available for actual amounts drunk.

This is not to suggest these figures debunk those from the report. We have no way of knowing how much our alcohol-inclined adolescents are drinking compared with ten years ago, but we do no that we apparently have more tee-totaling teens.

And of course the papers were well within their rights report one set of figures and not the other.

But rather than whining at this juncture, a special mention should be given instead a Times piece from last month.

It stated that although no one was really sure why, the nation overall "may actually be winning the battle against booze."

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