Monday, September 28, 2009

Alcohol and moral panic

Every day there are stories in the media related to alcohol laws and consumption, with an emphasis on young people. One could get bored by them. Or one could have a look at some statistics.

When I overlay the 15+ population it looks like this.

The next graph and accompanying notes reveal more;

It is interesting to see how this translates to the amount of alcohol available for consumption per person above the purchasing age (noting that the minimum age for purchasing alcoholic beverages changed from 20 to 18 years in 1999). Before this, the amount of alcohol available per person aged 20 years or over had generally been declining since 1986. It fell by 24 percent, from 12.8 litres per person in 1986 to 9.8 litres per person in 1999. Since the purchasing age was lowered, the amount available per person aged 18 years or over has risen slightly from 9.4 litres in 1999 to 9.8 litres in 2007.

So what we are currently experiencing daily through the media is largely unsubstantiated moral panic. Yes there are problems with alcohol. Nobody in their right mind would deny it. But is the situation any worse than it was 20 or 30 years ago? And I put that time frame on it because it is those who were young 20 or 30 years ago making the fuss and clamouring for greater regulation.

Of course it is all cloaked in well-meaning paternalism like "...too many young people are killing themselves on the roads." Well, of course they are. One is one too many. But, again, is it getting worse? No.


bez said...

Furthermore, in your first 'overlay' you are comparing volume with numbers, so there's a good argument to use the third root for the volume numbers, in which case the graphs would probably align even more closely.

brian_smaller said...

I don't need graphs. I remember what it was like as a teenager growing up at the Mount in the 1970s. We had parties all the time, had access to all the booze we wanted and got pissed regularly. Normal fare was taking 2-3 flagons to a party. Then driving home afterwards. Lindsay is right - moral panic by people who have forgotten that they were young once as well.