Data in the form of statistical summaries is often used to support social enquiries and provide evidence for policy changes without undertaking much but a cursory level of further analysis. For example, the BBC (2006) reported the following.
Alcohol deaths double since 1991
Alcohol-related death rates have almost doubled since 1991 in the UK and continue to rise, government statistics have revealed.
In 1991, the number of alcohol-related deaths stood at 4,144, while in 2005 the number leapt to 8,386, the Office for National Statistics said.
A small rise of 165 alcohol deaths was seen between 2004 and 2005.
The analysis also revealed alcohol death rates were much higher for men than for women. It also showed the gap between the sexes had widened in recent years.
In 2005, the male death rate was 17.9 deaths per 100,000 of the population, compared with 8.3 deaths per 100,000 for females.
An alcohol-related death is described by the Office for National Statistics as one that is caused by diseases or conditions linked to alcohol consumption, such as chronic liver disease or pancreatitis.
In men, the biggest increase in deaths from alcohol consumption was seen for men aged between 35 and 54, were rates had almost doubled since 1991.
The number of alcohol-related deaths for women in this age bracket had also double since 1991.
The highest rates for men and women were between the ages of 55–74. In 2005, the death rate in this age group was 43.4 per 100,000.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We are concerned about the number of alcohol related deaths and are committed to tackling this problem."We are currently introducing measures set out in the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England which will help reduce alcohol related deaths."Already annually some £217m is spent locally on alcohol treatment interventions and PCTs have also been notified that a total of £15m of additional investment will be provided for alcohol treatment services from 2007-08."
Frank Soodeen, a spokesman for Alcohol Concern, said: "Tragic as they are, these figures are hardly a surprise."Rising consumption and alcohol-related mortality have been linked as far back as 1950.
Binge drinkers should take especial note of the rise in the number of people aged between 35 and 54 who are now dying. "People need to realise that alcohol misuse is implicated in a range of fatal diseases from cancer to severe psychosis which can strike at relatively young ages."
Professor Chris Cook, an addiction expert based at Durham University, said: "The morbidity attributed to alcohol varies in close relationship with the amount of alcohol the population is consuming."Taking this into account, it is not tremendously surprising that the figures have increased given the way alcohol consumption has been rising in this country."
He said he believed this was mainly due to the government's "ineffective approach" and added that it needed to put into place more stringent measures, such as alcohol taxes, to control drinking."
In 2005, the licensing laws in England and Wales for selling alcohol were relaxed, allowing bars and clubs to stay open for longer.