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6 Comments

  1. 1

    Gavin Mooney

    Yes I agree Jennifer but taking a slightly different angle.

    If the messages about X being bad for our health turn out to be ‘wrong’ or all too blunt or end up being perceived as wrong or all too blunt, my worry is that this can adversely affect the messages that are ‘right’. “If they got it wrong on X, why should I believe them on Y or Z?” Is there research on this ‘externality’?

    Reply
  2. 2
    Jennifer Doggett

    Jennifer Doggett

    I agree that isolating the effects of alcohol (or any single risk factor) in the context of a long-term study is difficult. However, the problems associated with confounders are equally applicable to the negative effects of alcohol use as to the positive ones.

    As for vested interests, yes it is important to take these into consideration but again there are vested interests on both sides of the debate – alcohol industry representatives are not the only ones with a stake in a specific research outcome.

    In terms of social costs – I agree that from a policy perspective it is crucial that the social costs (and benefits) of alcohol use are taken into consideration. However, it is not relevant to include these in every research project looking at alcohol use. I don’t see any problems at all with a research project that focuses on the health impact of alcohol use across a specific population – where health is narrowly defined – and does not include broader social or economic costs. In the same way, it is important to know what the health risks and benefits are of a screening test – such as a mammogram – before assessing the broader social and economic costs of implementing a screening program across a population.

    Of course it is also crucial that economic analyses which look at the overall costs and benefits of alcohol use are undertaken. However, studies which purport to evaluate the overall ‘costs’ of alcohol (or other drugs) on our community often completely ignore the social benefits of alcohol use and include only the costs. For example, Collins and Lapsley’s series of studies in this area – the latest one can be found at:

    http://www.health.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/34F55AF632F67B70CA2573F60005D42B/$File/mono64.pdf

    Reply
  3. 3

    Doctor Whom

    “My own view on the often-promoted health benefits of alcohol is that they tend to be over-stated and don’t take account of the broader social costs, or are based on observational studies with so many confounders that it is impossible to draw any conclusions about cause and effect.”

    C’mon Ms C, ever been to a wedding, party or funeral without alcohol?

    The only thing worse would be going to a music gig or trying to dance with Bob Brown or Clive Hamilton

    Reply
  4. 4
    Croakey

    Croakey

    I guess it depends what circles you move in, Dr W. Try sharing a train with late night revellers, or post-footy inebriates. Not much fun at all…

    Reply

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