May 7, 2013

Modestly significant

From a comment piece in Stuff, by Bruce Robertson (of Hospitality NZ)

In the past five years, the level of hazardous drinking has significantly decreased for men (from 30 per cent to 26 per cent) and marginally decreased for women (13 per cent to 12 per cent).

There was a modest but important drop in the rates of hazardous drinking among Maori adults, with the rate falling from 33 per cent to 29 per cent in the latest survey.

As @tui_talk pointed out on Twitter, that’s a four percentage point decrease described as “significant” for men and “modest” for Maori.

At first I thought this might be a confusion of “statistically significant” with “significant”, with the decrease in men being statistically significant but the difference in Maori not, but in fact the MoH report being referenced says (p4)

As a percentage of all Māori adults, hazardous drinking patterns significantly decreased from 2006/07 (33%) to 2011/12 (29%). 




Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


  • avatar

    What I found intersting is this comment…

    “The survey also found the rate of hazardous drinking for young drinkers (18 to 24-year-olds) had substantially dropped, from 49 per cent in 2006-07 to 36 per cent in 2011-12.”

    “Obviously, we still have work to do to reduce alcohol-related harm in our society and the hospitality industry is determined to play its part.”

    “However, the survey shows that the situation is not nearly as disastrous as many submitters and politicians claimed. ”

    That 36% of young adults are drinking hazardously is pretty appalling on the face of it. (And the decrease from 49% is probably more to do with the recession and changing demographics – more young Asians and Pacific People, fewer young Euro NZ/Pakeha – than anything else).

    4 years ago

    • avatar
      Thomas Lumley

      He’s right that it’s not as disastrous as many claimed — there certainly were people claiming it was getting worse, not better; that’s not just a straw man.

      I’m not convinced about the demographics — for example, the report says that hazardous drinking is slightly more common among Pacific People than Euro/Other. Pasifika are more likely not to drink at all, but also more likely to drink hazardously if they do drink at all. Asians have a much lower rate, but I don’t think there are enough of them to make a difference that big.

      I don’t know about the recession — I agree you’d think that young people would show more price sensitivity, and especially that young heavy drinkers would be more price sensitive than people who been heavy drinkers for a long time, but I don’t know to what extent that’s actually true.

      As you say, the rate is still quite high in absolute terms, especially as “hazardous” is defined fairly reasonably. To get 8 points on the AUDIT questionnaire you either need to have 6 or more drinks on the same occasion at least a couple of times a month, or report other problems associated with drinking. They do, however, miss one of the biggest health impacts of drinking: they don’t ask about driving drunk.

      For me, the most implausible phrase in the whole piece was “the hospitality industry is determined to play its part.” But I suppose he has to say that.

      4 years ago

  • avatar

    I haven’t looked at this data for a while but IIRC hazardous drinking is lower for young PP than ENZ/P (and higher for middle aged PP than ENZ/PP).

    4 years ago