Thursday, March 22, 2007

Statistics

Dave Allen used to say that since one third of accidents were caused by drunk drivers this led to the conclusion that two thirds of accidents were caused by the sober who should get off the road and leave the drunks in peace. The clampdown on drunk drivers has led to a greater and greater proportion of accidents being caused by the sober.

As health and safety got its teeth into the residential holidays for teenagers programme I used to assist with, the analysis one year proved that more dangerous than mountains, rivers, caves and contact sports were cupboard doors.

Nationally this trend produced the rarely mentioned statistic one year that accident and emergency admissions were prompted by, in this order:

1. Slippers
2. Tea cosies
3. Stairs

If you see someone in slippers coming down the stairs with a pot of tea don't dial 999, call the undertaker.

Zoe Williams in the Guardian yesterday ranted about a government recommendation concerning alcohol and blue cheese restrictions for pregnant women. Read her whole piece here. She concluded:

'...factoring in the midwifery crisis in the NHS, the 21% rise in maternal deaths over the past three years, and the 17,000 women who have suffered harm on labour wards, the most dangerous thing you can do for yourself or your foetus before, during and after its delivery, is to take it anywhere near a hospital.'

This madness is coming at us from all angles at present. As a piece on the radio said yesterday, Sainsburys have banned Turkey Twizzlers but still sell cigarettes.

It seems to me that for every scare story there is an expert who will refute it or, at minimum say, 'Hang on a minute.' The skill of living today is the ability to pick the most likely expert or assess where the majority of experts concur and then to make your own decision as to whether that glass of Stilton wine is really an unjustifiable risk to your unborn child.

I smoked during my wife's first pregnancy. She drank. Last night we had dinner with the resultant 27 year old, six foot two, thirteen and a half stone statistical anomaly and his girlfriend. We just got lucky? I had given up smoking by the second pregnancy and my wife consumed less alcohol but my younger son ended up four inches shorter than his brother. What should I say to him?

Life. It's all about decisions. What's yours?

3 comments:

Caroline said...

Bit of a contradiction there, st

Life's about decisions, but your decision to smoke didn't have any apparent consequence..

Life's about actions and consequences, perhaps?

bloody confusing if it is

Life's an improv performance where a multitude of actors bump into eachother like pinballs?

I dunno, but the unpredictabiity of it all makes it so exciting for a learner like me.

I'm not sure I ever decide anything: my dad, my gender and class, my upbringing, my faith group all seem to have a say in anything I do. I really don't get the chance to work out where it's me making a decision or not.

david said...

I am not a statistician, but sometimes have to use them in my work. Statistics often get a bad name because few people really understand what they are all about – all they see are statistics in the popular press which are presented as “facts” with no idea of standard deviation, variance, confidence intervals etc. (sorry to get technical).
The statistician where I used to work had a great example of the misuse of statistics, “The average American has one testicle and one breast”. A sign above her desk read “statistics are usually used as a drunk employs a lamppost – for support rather than illumination”.

St said...

Agreed. A guy with his feet in the feeezer and his head in the cooker is, on average, comfortable.