Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reduce your risk of dying?

This morning’s news reported on the results of a new study on the benefits of low-dose Aspirin for older women. According to the reporter, taking an Aspirin a day “reduces the risk of dying”. Now I will grant you that it has been some time since I last cracked a statistics textbook, but even though it’s been a few decades I think the definition of risk is still the same. If something is inevitable (like death, for instance) the risk of it occurring is 100%, and it is always 100%. It cannot be reduced except by avoiding the unavoidable, which is normally problematic.

The reporter went on to say that such a daily regimen has been shown to “reduce the risk of death in healthy women”. So let me get this straight – you’re healthy, but dead. Or is it dead, but healthy? Listen up people - if your body kills you, you’re not healthy! Healthy people only die through accidents or foul play, and I don’t see how an Aspirin a day can possibly prevent one from being murdered or in a fatal car accident.

If this was but a single occurrence it could be simply chalked up to the ignorance of the reporter, but the incorrect use of statistics to pitch a story or a certain perspective is pervasive, and the public never questions the veracity of what they are being told.

No wonder Jim Flaherty gets away with it.

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