Monday, 4 March 2013

Lies, damn lies and Statistics

The first published occurrence of the remark, often attributed to Mark Twain, was in 1891  in The National Observer -  
There are three kinds of falsehood . The first is the fib, the second is the downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics. - Anon
Although the much punchier version was popularised by Mark Twain, he himself attributed it to Disraeli: however it does not appear in any of his speeches so I am inclined towards the National Observer's anonymous contributor.
So why am I considering this phrase?  In my recent post - Drinking Water -I used some statistics relating to deaths occurring in the London Marathon to illustrate the point I was making regarding the relative risk from drinking too much or too little water. I could have chosen other statistics but the ones I used were selected because:
1)  They supported my point quite dramatically (!)
2)  They related to a situation where I expected the opposite result, i.e. that dehydration was more of a danger when running a marathon.
Research into illness, injury and death in the London Marathon has been extensive and if you want to read more try Peak Performance webiste. For those who would just  like some reassurance, here are a couple of facts to consider.
- Only those deaths, or collapses leading to deaths , that occur during the marathon or within the finish area are considred marathon deaths.
- The overal mortality rate from the 20 years  is one in 67,414 or roughly one death in every 2 million miles run.

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