Work And Booze

Continuing today’s theme of shoddy science, look at this little story that Sis saw and immediately thought of me:

Study: Alcohol affects 15 percent of workers
Workers drink on the job, arrive under the influence or work with hangover
NEW YORK – There may be an alcohol problem brewing in American offices, shops and factories.
An estimated 15 percent of the U.S. workforce consumes alcohol on the job, has a drink before going to work or otherwise is under the influence of alcohol, according to a study by the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions.
That equates to some 19.2 million workers impaired during the workday via intoxication, withdrawal or hangover.

I’m reminded of the old Twain bit about statistics. The headline on the article and the extrapolated math in the first few paragraphs pretty strongly implies, it seems to me, that 15% of the US workforce is working under the influence every day. But if you have the temerity to read some more you find out that’s not the case.

Coming into work with a hangover was the most common finding.

Er, ok. This is something requires “clear policies” (and, of course, more government funds for “further studies”).

The institute said that 10.8 percent admitted they either drank at work, before work or turned up with a hangover but that it happened less than once a month, while 2.9 percent said it was a monthly occurrence and 1.65 percent said weekly.

So that’s where they get 15%! Oh sure, 11 of the 15% only do it less than once a month, and most of them are simply hungover. Nothing sexy in that headline. No, no, much better to get creative with the math and say “That equates to some 19.2 million workers impaired during the workday via intoxication, withdrawal or hangover.” Much better copy, no?

11 Responses to “Work And Booze”

  1. John says:

    That’s why I always say the the word “social” is a huge caveat in front of any degree that ends in “science”.
    I never trust any surveys unless they release the instrument that produced the results. The CDC did something similar on Arthritis not too long ago where they asked if you had had joint pain in the past month, and then concluded that 73 million americans (almost 1/3 of the adult population – the real number is probably closer to 23 million) had arthritis. Hello? Anybody ask about sprains, strains, Weekend Warriors… Anyone? Anyone?

  2. Ken Summers says:

    WTF kind of idiot goes to work with a hangover? Smart people just call in sick.

  3. Mr. Bingley says:

    Not when they don’t have enough vacation and they ge paid for unused sick days, they don’t.
    I can’t call in sick 4 days a week, Ken…

  4. Susanna says:

    In grad school my stats professor had us bring in articles exactly like this to show gross misuse of statistical figures.

  5. It’s gross, alright…

  6. Mr. Bingley says:

    Here’s one of the Twain quotes I was thinking of:
    In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    – Life on the Mississippi

  7. Mr. Bingley says:

    Here’s another one:
    The scientist. He will spend thirty years in building up a mountain range of facts with the intent to prove a certain theory; then he is so happy in his achievement that as a rule he overlooks the main chief fact of all–that his accumulation proves an entirely different thing.
    – “The Bee” essay

    hehe. Not that I’m trying to get John all riled up mind you…

  8. John says:

    I’m not riled up, I agree. What a lot of people forget is that science works by continually questioning theories, and that on an indvidual level, that rarely happens. Most scientists love their babies too much to really attack them as science demands. But in a real Hayekian irony, science works in large part because so many scientists are peckerwoods and try to pick apart each others’ theories. That’s why publication bias and grant application bias is a real and present threat to science – especially in climatology. Consensus is the enemy, so every time Gorezilla claims that 9 out of 10 scientists agree with him (not true, but irrelevant even if true) he reveals how ignorant he is about science.

  9. John says:

    Oh yes – all too many scientists set out to “prove” something, rather than with a sketchy hypothesis to which they are not wedded. And then they run afoul of this:
    ” It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts…’ ”
    which is one of the few things Conan Doyle evr got right.

  10. Nightfly says:

    “In retrospect, it was probably a mistake to include Ted Kennedy in our statistical sample,” researches said later.

  11. “It was purely budgetary in nature. He is big enough to BE ~ and can drink as much AS ~ TWO ordinary humans, but we only had to fill out ONE form. Funding constraints, you know. Always looking to save a nickel.”

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