Wednesday 14 November 2012

Binge drinking reports

I hate it when this happens.

The University's press guy emailed asking if I might comment on this. Markia Hill reports for Fairfax on a new report showing binge drinking rates are up for 16-17 year old girls. From the story:
Senior secondary school girls are now bigger binge drinkers than their male counterparts, according to a health report into the country's drinking habits.
With the bigger boozing culture, females are also doing themselves more harm and risking their health.
The hard-hitting report into the female drinking culture was released at an alcohol harm conference in Auckland today.
The percentage of females aged 16 and 17 binge-drinking on a typical night out tripled from nine to 28 per cent between 1995 and 2011.
For males of the same age, the percentage increased from 19 to 25 per cent. Binge-drinking has dropped among 18 and 19-year-old males from 30 to 29 per cent.
However, for the same age group of females, the proportion of binge-drinkers increased from four to 16 per cent.
The story has no link either to the conference or to the paper. I expect that the paper was part of the "Harm to Harmony" conference that the anti-alcohol folks are running. The conference programme has links to no papers. If there's a new Alcohol Healthwatch survey out on youth drinking, it's nowhere on their website. If ALAC put out a new report, it's not on their website - the last one they have is the ALAC Alcohol Monitor 2009-10, released Feb 2011.

So all I can say is that prior data showed no particular increase in youth drinking. The Social Report showed no increase in "potentially hazardous drinking" among 15-24 year olds from 1996/97 through 2006/07. From that report:

Table H6.1 Proportion (%) of adult drinkers with a potentially hazardous drinking pattern, by age group and sex, 1996/1997, 2002/2003, 2006/2007
Age group (years)
Source: Ministry of Health

I can't see any increase in hazardous drinking among young women in that data.

ALAC's last report had females as 52% of the cohort of young binge drinkers in 2005-6, as in "52% of all young binge drinkers aged 12-17 were female", not as in "52% of young women were binge drinkers". In 2007-8 it was 45%; in 2009-10, it was 47%. So the number bounces around a bit. If women outnumbered men in the last survey, it would be repeating what the survey found in 2005-6. The 1997-2000 survey didn't split things by gender, so I can't comment on what was going on in '95. But there was no particular increase in aggregate youth binging from that survey through to the last report.

And recall that Stillman found no evidence of worsened outcomes with the reduction in the alcohol purchase age.

Eventually, they'll put the paper up. After the media cycle has moved on. I don't hate getting calls from the University's press guy asking for comment on stuff where I've been watching the literature closely. But I get annoyed that the antis have worked a nice trick of getting Fairfax to report uncritically on anything they put up while making sure any potential critics don't have access to whatever they've already gotten in press until after the media are interested in other things.

The last time I got sniffy about not being given access to a much-reported-on-but-not-released report, I got a surprising email back along with the report. I'd noted that it was a bit off that they'd gotten two or three stories in press about a piece of research that was nowhere available; they replied that had it been available to me early, it might have led to imbalanced reporting.

I've not yet bothered asking for a copy of this one. But if the University's press guy gets a copy, I'll have a look at it.

Update: A correspondent asked the presenter for a copy of the paper; no written paper yet exists for critique.


  1. OK, every time the anti-alcohol lobby grab a headline with nothing to back it up, you do a shot.

  2. They may have something backing it up. They're just not yet showing their work.

  3. That counts; do a shot!