Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alcohol and Life Expectancy, Continued:

After yesterday's alcohol and life expectancy post, I was curious about my findings (which, to summarize, were that alcohol use had no correlation with life expectancy).

I could have looked at alcohol consumption versus death through violence or accidents. I could have also looked at PAST alcohol consumption rates, since alcohol that causes chronic diseases wouldn't be having much of an effect on current life expectancy.

But what I did do was break down the life expectancy figures by each three of the types of alcohol mentioned:

First, beer consumption:

This graph is even more inconclusive than the overall alcohol/life expectancy one. So, having little to say about that, lets move on to wine:

This was surprising, even though I guessed that wine would have a positive correlation with life expectancy. That the shape of the scatterplot was so defined did come as a bit of a surprise, as well as the fact that some of our traditional outliers were not showing in their usual places. Utah, which is far behind in other forms of alcohol consumption, is not so far behind in wine consumption. West Viginia and Mississippi seem to have it beat. Also, I wouldn't have guessed that Idaho drank so much wine: more than wine producing states such as California and Oregon, apparently.
I don't think wine is causative of long life (or at least, I don't think that is what this diagrams shows). I think that wine drinking is correlated with SES, and that is what this graph shows. Specifically, notice Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts in the upper right hand corner.

Lastly, we look at consumption of hard liquor:
Once again, we are back in amorphous blob territory. Most of the states were bunched so closely together that there was no reason to label them. The usual outliers are in the usual places, especially the pesky New Hampshire and Delaware (and did anyone guess why they are where they are?)

It should also be noted that wine consumption, even though it does show an actual correlation, is drowned out (so to speak) in the overall alcohol diagram because in almost all states, it makes up such a small amount of the alcohol consumed, ranging from 1/17th in West Virginia to 1/3rd in Idaho.

1 comment:

  1. My thinking is that you're not narrowing down your categories enough if you're not getting a correlation. Not to say that there's necessarily a clear correlation with any type of alcohol and longevity, but breaking it down to just beer, wine and liquor ignores the wide range of differences between the different qualities of each. Someone who drinks a gallon a year of store brand vodka may have an entirely different health and longevity profile than someone who drinks a gallon a year of Absolut Citron. Someone who drinks a six-pack a week of craft microbrew might have an entirely different health and longevity profile than someone who drinks the same amount of Lucky Lager. Same thing with box wine versus "fine" wines.

    And even this could be broken down in many ways that might not be obvious. While one factor could be the quality of the drink of choice, other factors could be that people who pay more may have better overall health and mental health, enjoying a regular drink for social and/or taste reasons, whereas someone who drinks cheap hooch might go in fits of binge drinking, just to get drunk. Alternately, people who pay less may do so because they are, overall, less wealthy, and health and longevity certainly have strong correlations to socioeconomic status.

    I'll bet if you narrow to a more specific type or price range for each type of drink, you may see less of the "blobbing" you describe here. I don't know where to get those stats, but it seems to me that one type of alcohol that is often separated out, and of which almost all brands fall within a narrow cost/quality range might be malt liquor. Any stats on that for the 50 states?