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6. Scary Stories, Scary Nos.

June 13, 2013

When it comes to health stats emotions beat facts.

kid walk

Not many children in Australia or the UK walk to school unsupervised or at all. The risks perceived by parents are out of proportion to the real risk. This is more to do with psychology than statistics.

It is a FAMILIARITY BIAS.

Shocking stories about car accidents and abductions terrify parents. But their fears are not supported by the numbers.  As The Guardian noted, here are the stats for child pedestrian deaths in the UK.

pedestrian sign

In 2008 in England and Wales there were 1,471,100 girls aged between five and nine. The Office for National Statistics says 137 of them died from all causes. One was a pedestrian in a traffic accident. In 2010, there were no pedestrian deaths in this category.

 body count

As for abductions, the big stories capture our attention like the Madeleine McCann case. But as The Telegraph noted, more children in the UK die from window blinds (the chords are a hazard causing 4 deaths per year) than abduction.

We also tend to be more frightened by big numbers than little numbers.

This from the New Scientist.

In one study of this effect, people rated cancer as riskier when told that it “kills 1286 people out of 10,000” than when told it “kills 24.14 people out of 100”

bones

This makes living on the earth very dangerous as, according to the World Health Organization

approximately 156,000 people die a day. And don’t even think to look at your Star Sign. Obviously, 13,000 Geminis die each day and 13,000 Leos. And so on. For those concerned it was not their lucky day.

star signs

Too many death statistics are not good for your health either.

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