Don’t be fooled by eye-catching statistics

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  • Format Audio, Texts
  • Target Audience Self-directed learning
  • EBM Stage 0 - Why EBM?
  • Duration <5 mins
  • Difficulty Introductory

Key Concepts addressed


Let’s say the risk of having a heart attack in your fifties is 50 per cent higher if you have a high cholesterol. That sounds pretty bad. Let’s say the extra risk of having a heart attack if you have a high cholesterol is only 2 per cent. That sounds OK to me. But they’re the same (hypothetical figures). Let’s try this. Out of a hundred men in their fifties with normal cholesterol, four will be expected to have a heart attack; whereas out of a hundred men with high cholesterol, six will be expected to have a heart attack. That’s two extra heart attacks per hundred.

Goldacre B. Bad Science. London: Fourth Estate 2008, pp239-40.

Read more in:  Statistics are confusing – should patients really have to look at the numbers?


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