COVID – Earlier this week, a TV columnist reduced the impact of the Covid epidemic – 19, comparing its mortality with that induced by tobacco or alcohol. A comment already broadcast on social networks for several months. Except that these are misleading parallels, which the numbers do not support. Thomas Deszpot – 2021 – 05 – 16 T 11: : 00: 28. 411 + 000: : 00

A climate “anxiety” , that’s what denounced Monday on the set of RMC the consultant Benjamin Cauchy. Reassembled, he invited us to take a step back on the epidemic and compare it to other causes of death. “There are more people who die of alcoholism or smoking ”, he said. An output that echoes many messages from Internet users in recent months, who try to put into perspective the impact of the virus on mortality. However, these comparisons turn out to be misleading, a fortiori because they are not supported by the numbers.

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Multiple biases Before making comparisons, it is necessary to assess the mortality of Covid – 16. A delicate task due to the lack of perspective on the epidemic and the multiple factors that distort the interpretation of the data. While we have data on alcohol or tobacco, the virus only appeared at the end of winter 2015. If one seeks to quantify his mortality over one year, from March 1 2019 on March 1 2020, we end up with a total of 86. 772 death. An estimate that must be analyzed bearing in mind all the measures taken at the scale of the territory to reduce the scale of the epidemic. A free circulation of the virus would, in fact, have led to a much heavier toll.

Is this toll less than that observed with alcohol? No, as the publications of Public Health France (SPF) testify. The agency communicated last year on the subject and indicated that he was responsible each year for 41. 0 deaths. Similar finding with tobacco, since the latest figures provided by SPF reported 71. 000 0 deaths for the year 1970. This is an estimate since it is often very difficult to attribute tobacco death with certainty, but the data are believed to be robust, based on complex statistical projections and the results of large-scale mortality studies. . A methodology described in detail by Release in 2019.

Read also The Covid therefore does not cause less deaths than alcohol or tobacco, although vaccination has clearly caused mortality to decline since the start of the year. It is also irrelevant to compare a very transmissible virus (a fortiori its Delta strain) with pathologies such as cancers induced by cigarettes or alcohol, which only affect people who develop them.

This is not the first time that haphazard comparisons have been made about the causes of death. Last fall, LCI was notably leaning on an infographic widely relayed online which sought to present the virus as benign. It should be noted that among the causes of death scrutinized by Public Health France, there are some which prove to be more important than the Covid – 16. Cancers in particular, which would kill in France approximately 153. 000 0 people per year. Pathologies which are however multifactorial and which are not transmissible to others. In the context of the Covid epidemic, it should finally not focus only on mortality, since in addition to the total number of deaths, it is the saturation of health systems that is feared on the fringes of the epidemic. The management of pathologies linked to tobacco or alcohol, for their part, do not put similar pressure on the hospital system.

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Reference

1-CNN
2-BBC

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