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J Stud Alcohol. 2002 Jul;63(4):436-46.

Wartime Paris, cirrhosis mortality, and the ceteris paribus assumption.

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Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0612, USA.



This article critiques the ceteris paribus assumption, which tacitly sustains the epidemiologic literature's inference that the sharp decline in cirrhosis mortality observed in Paris during the Second World War derived from a sharp constriction in wine consumption. Paris's wartime circumstances deviate substantially from the "all else being equal" assumption, and at least three other hypotheses for the cirrhosis decline may be contemplated.


Historical and statistical review.


Wartime Paris underwent tumultuous changes. Wine consumption did decline, but there were, as well, a myriad of other changes in diet and life experience, many involving new or heightened hardships, nutritional, experiential, institutional, health and mortality risks. Three competing hypotheses are presented: (1) A fraction of the candidates for cirrhosis mortality may have fallen to more sudden forms of death; (2) alcoholics, heavy drinkers and Paris's clochard subpopulation may have been differentially likely to become removed from the city's wartime population, whether by self-initiated departure, arrest and deportation, or death from other causes, even murder; and (3) there was mismeasurement in the cirrhosis mortality decline.


The alcohol-cirrhosis connection provided the template for the alcohol research effort (now more than 20 years old) aimed at re-establishing scientific recognition of alcohol's direct alcohol-problems-generating associations and causal responsibilities. In a time given to reports of weaker associations of the alcohol-cirrhosis connection, the place and importance of the Paris curve in the wider literature, as regards that connection, remains. For this reason, the Paris findings should be subjected to as much research scrutiny as they undoubtedly deserve.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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