Daily Archives: 26/03/2014

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I was back at university last week studying a public health course and as part of it this graph was shared to discuss (and little did they know that it would then pop up here on my blog!)

WHO 2002 major burden of disease

What I find striking about this graph is that 12 years ago alcohol was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the 3rd leading risk factor for major disease burden in developed countries.

Now compare it to this statistic:

The WHO estimates that by 2020 depression will impose the second biggest health burden globally (source).  So, letting that sink in for a bit, within the next 6 years depression will impose a bigger health burden than cardiovascular disease for which high blood pressure (no 2 in the chart above) is a contributory risk factor.   That begs the question, what are the contributory risk factors for depression?  Using the same logic I applied to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure is alcohol one of them?  We know that alcohol is a depressant (source).

Now I’m not saying that there is a causal relationship here between booze and depression but what the hell is going on?  How has depression become such a huge public health issue?  The relationship between alcohol and depression is directly correlated (dependent) with up to 50% of alcoholics presenting with symptoms of major depression.  We also know that alcohol and depression are co-morbid (so the same person can have both at the same time) and which anecdotal evidence from my experience and our small community supports (see the comments on these two posts).  I self-medicated my depression with alcohol and this is likely to have made my depression worse.

If the WHO have known for 12 years that alcohol is such an issue – why has more not been done?  If we know that depression is becoming such an issue globally, again why are we not doing something about it, including researching the risk factors and paying particular attention to alcohol and looking at co-morbidity?   Inquiring minds would like to know …….

and if anyone does have any evidence of this kind of research I would love to see it either in the comments below or you can email me 🙂