Beware of health scare stories

27 Jan, 2019 at 18:56 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Beware of health scare stories

spiked: What is your take on the recent Lancet study that claims there is no safe level of alcohol consumption?

David Spiegelhalter: This is a huge study that brings together published evidence from nearly 700 other studies. It is really about how much people are drinking around the world …

pop010In this study, the claim that there’s no safe level of drinking is the weakest part … What I do blame the authors for is that they only communicated relative risk. Lancet guidelines say that the results of risk analyses should always be communicated in terms of absolute risk. In other words, what does it mean for 1,000 people who drink X amount or don’t drink at all? The authors didn’t do this. And there was clearly poor refereeing by the Lancet. But the Lancet’s press office – bless them – did manage to get this data from the authors, which has allowed me to do my own calculations …

Using this study’s own figures, I calculated that 25,000 people would have to consume one drink per day in order for one of them to have a serious alcohol-related condition. That’s the equivalent of consuming 400,000 bottles of gin between them. So an extra drink or two is not very dangerous.


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