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[Irish Medical Times] Newspapers not reporting alcohol’s role in deaths. (23 May 2014)

External website: http://www.imt.ie/clinical/2014/05/newspapers-not-...

Reports of confirmed alcohol-related deaths in Irish newspapers are failing to reflect the role of alcohol consumption in these fatalities, new research has suggested.

The study — published in the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism — looked at the newspaper reporting of alcohol-related deaths in Ireland over a two-year period. These were deaths due to alcohol poisoning or trauma, including choking, drowning, falls, road traffic collisions and fires, where alcohol was identified as a causal contributor to death.

Carried out by Dr John Fagan, Senior Registrar in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dr Suzi Lyons, Senior Researcher, Health Research Board, and Dr Bobby Smyth, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Addiction Studies, TCD School of Medicine, the research excluded deaths due to suicide and chronic alcohol-related medical conditions.

The study found that in 100 reports of 43 deaths, in both national and local newspapers, not one article reported that a person was drunk. Only two articles, about the same person, stated clearly that a deceased person had been drinking for a prolonged period of time before their death.

Two thirds of the articles (67 per cent) omitted any mention or suggestion of alcohol use whatsoever. In one third of articles where the possibility of alcohol consumption was suggested, in 75 per cent of these cases it was simply to indicate that the person had been ‘socialising’ prior to their death.

The study population was identified using the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI), which is an epidemiological database maintained by the Health Research Board that records all deaths due to drugs and/or alcohol poisoning (as well as deaths among drug users and those who are alcohol-dependent.)

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