Posted by Angry Exile
Well, more or less if certain figures are to be believed. I refer you to Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. Having seen the the claim that 40,000 deaths are due to junk food he’s done what I’ve wondered about for ages and added up all the claims of the things that we like to do that supposedly kill us. Interesting reading.
I’ve wondered for some time what would happen if you added up all the ‘preventable’ deaths claimed in reports like this. I’ve never got round to doing a proper estimate but as a very rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation, here’s what I’ve come up with…
As a starting pointing, there are about 490,000 deaths a year in England and Wales (ONS, 2008). Of these, 175,000 involve people aged 85 or over. It’s surely pushing it to describe these deaths as ‘preventable’, so lets exclude them, leaving a total of 315,000.
Of those 315,000, there are some that even the most eager public healthist has yet to blame on lifestyle. For example:
Intentional self-harm: 8,000
Accidents (including traffic accidents): 13,00
Alzheimers/Parkinson’s/motor neuron disease: 7,000
There are many, many others but let’s be ultra-conservative and just exclude these 39,000 deaths. That leaves us with a total of 276,000.
Now let’s look at how many deaths are attributed to specific causes in the newspapers:
Junk food: 40,000
Air pollution: 50,000
Medical accidents and errors: 40,000
= 306,000 deaths
In other words, we seem to have more deaths from the estimates than we have bodies in the graveyard. Even with the implicit, if ridiculous, assumption that every cancer and every heart attack is preventable, the figures don’t add up (and we still haven’t taken into account things like fires, assaults, drownings, murders and contagious diseases).
As a commenter over there pointed out we also have to make some allowance for deaths which have multiple causes, though I think using the term ’cause’ implies something rather more definite and ‘factor’ is probably a better choice. Still, if the claims of the various bansturbators, killjoys and Strength-through-Joy types are to be taken seriously it looks like if only we’d put that bloody fag out, board up the pubs and burn down all the take-aways then dying would be a thing of the past.
Of course, the other way of looking at it is that they pull numbers of dead from [insert hated activity here] out of their arses whenever they need to top the last lot of terrifying headlines, but who’d seriously believe that?
Well, for starters anyone who remembers that these healthist bastards have form in making up the safe limits in the first place.
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