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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The "culture of binge drinking" and the credulous academics

The latest piece of binge drinking research would be funny it if had been written by a comedian. The fact that it is apparently serious is profoundly depressing.

The BBC today reports that a culture of binge drinking is 'well-established' in north-west England. Liverpool's John Moore university discovered this by going out around town centres on Friday and Saturday nights and interviewing people who they thought looked drunk.

They were horrified to discover that these people were indeed drunk, and that they intended to carry on drinking.

This is, apparently, newsworthy.

Among the shock insights uncovered by this crack team of researchers are:
  • "drinking at home before a night out and drinking later into the night may be associated with higher levels of drunkenness in city centres"
and
  • "drinkers who planned to stay out due to extended opening hours were the ones intending to drink the most"
So far, so many bears defecating in forests. But the bit I find astonishing, given that this report is coming from a supposedly reputable academic institution which presumably applies a certain amount of rigour to its research methodology, is "one in 10 (15% of men and 4% of women) believing their total alcohol intake would be more than 40 units before going to sleep".

This gave Sky its headline for its coverage of the story, and prompted Alcohol Concern chief Don Shenker to comment "That some people are drinking over these amounts in a single evening is cause for real concern."

So let's get this straight: you went up to a bunch of pissed people on a Saturday night, interrupted their evening to ask them questions about their drinking, and when they told you they intended to drink the equivalent of 20 pints of beer, four and a half bottles of wine or 27 gin and tonics... you believed them?!

Did you also believe them when the lads told you they all had 12 inch knobs and had shagged all the most attractive girls in town?

Either Don Shenker and John Moore University are simpletons who have no understanding whatsoever of how people behave when they've been drinking, or they've knowingly bought in to a study which any serious researcher would laugh out of the room for its deeply flawed methodology, and cynically presented it as fact when they know it can only be taken at best with a huge pinch of salt.

And as the final link with reality is severed, what picture does the BBC choose to illustrate these supposed 40-units-a-night drinkers?

Go on, have a guess.

Correct!

Twenty pints of real ale please. We're all going out to get bollocksed out of our minds on J W Lees Bitter.


11 comments:

StudentRambler said...

When I read the news article, I checked the date to make sure it wasn't from April 1st.

Truly astonishing what classes as research these days.

jesusjohn said...

'Twenty pints of real ale please...and quickly, please - the world's about to end.'

For fear of being labelled an Oxbridge snob, I couldn't possibly agree with the idea that 'Don Shenker and John Moore University are simpletons who have no understanding whatsoever of how people behave when they've been drinking'.

But I would credit them with enough cynical savvy to realise such a study would garner them the opportunity to gawp at a shocked and appalled Kay Burley down a light tube.

William Avery said...

40 units = a whole litre bottle of gin. One is tempted to salute their ambition.

Jeff Pickthall said...

I've made a complaint here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/?id=V3F3CODUUTVJ5VQBS14QBU98RA

Pete's Quiz said...

I'm not normally someone who believes in conspiracy theories...but...the health do gooders managed to get a smoking ban based on very spurious data!

Now, similar people have turned their attention to alcohol and are doing their damnedest to turn public opinion against drinking. Let's hope they don't find a 'killer' argument like passive smoking to undermine a pastime we're all very fond of!

Cooking Lager said...

This sums up the whole irresponsibility of the alcohol on-trade and the importance of supporting well run community supermarkets flogging cheap grog responsibly.

rr said...

For fear of being labelled a Liverpool University snob...

"John Moores University" my arse - it's "The Poly".

Leigh said...

It's just the usual, Pete, isnt it? heaven forbid the news corps back thier (seemingly re-hashed from every story of it's type before it) story with images of Teens pre-loading on 3-4-1-wine offers from supermarkets, or flourescent alcopops.

Koops said...

Isn't that funny, Pete? Coz I DO have a 12" nob AND have shagged all the pretty girls in town.

The technique employed by S & JM University is known as 'probablity sampling', and is often used by less scrupulous organisations to confirm a pre-determined result. An example (apart from the one you have cited) is where a survey on people's satisfaction with a company's performance is conducted through the complaints section. This is called 'bias', and any survey worth it's salt attempts to eradicate any chance of this from the outset. Clearly, this is not one such survey and as such should be sprinkled over hot chips.

rabbi lionheart said...

So, what you're saying is...If I have a twelve inch knob and shag the most attractive girls in town, and drink a whole bottle of gin a night...that I could actually exist?

I'm sorry to hear there are such idiots selling stories and studies like this, but at the same time I'm laughing...quite a bit.

DJ said...

To be honest I am not suprised by any of this anymore. I just wish Pete's responses had the same exposure as the drivel being spouted is given.