Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Lies, Damn Lies And Binge Drinking Reports

Yahoo has a news report claiming that adult binge drinkers tend to drink beer, because it's cheap, while young bingers drink harder stuff, apparently because it's easier to nick from their parents' cabinets.

I've looked at binge drinking reports before and, well, sneered at the definitions. This one is no different. First there's the preposterous definition of binge:
A binge drinker was defined as someone who had five or more alcoholic drinks on at least one occasion in the last 30 days.

I've described five drinks before as a "prelude to a binge" not a binge in and of itself, more a pre-binge warm-up. The other day I drank 13 different drinks just to win a T-Shirt and followed that up with a couple of rum and cokes. Now, that was a binge. Being of a scientific background, I realise that anecdotes and personal experience are not evidence and that my friends probably tend towards being drinkers (what with meeting them in pubs and what have you), but that definition covers just about everyone I know over the age of fifteen. Which brings me to my next point:
About 15 percent of U.S. adults fit that profile, and most are men, according to federal statistics

Ok, so they had prohibition and there's that whole "dry county" thing and, well, outside of big cities I don't think Americans have much of a pub culture to speak of, but really... Actually, this compares somewhat to the people of East Dorset (9% bingers) in my previous post on this about whom I said "They either have no clue what they're drinking or the survey actually shows that people in East Dorset are the biggest set of liars in England".

The funny thing is that without the first definition the second stat feels about right, and that would suggest a problem. Binge drinking can have serious effects on a person's health (and bank balance) but scare stories with laughably arbitrary figures probably aren't helping anyone except publicity seeking Doctors.

I'm not sure if this exaggeration is needed. There's that thing F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you", which feels true and would suggest that stopping at five drinks is an option only for those that have no option. That if someone has had a "binge" of five drinks in the last month chances are that they'll have had a real binge of much more in that same month.

Then again, it could just be me...

1 comment:

RCSJackson said...

I'd say 5 drinks is binge drinking for teenagers and small people. 5 drinks with dinner, then desert drinks, then after dinner party drinks.

Labeling it at 5 drinks is just a way for them to boost the stats to make Americans seem like much worse drinkers than they really are.