Friday, 24 July 2009

Some context, please

If there's one thing that is guaranteed to help make a run of the mill story a better story, it is too leave out the context.

This one for instance...
Four times as many kids OD on coke

Four times as many kids overdose on coke as what? Fall of bikes? Cook their mothers dinner? Masturbate?

It gets even worse in the sub-header...
THE number of kids rushed to hospital after overdosing on COCAINE has soared by 400 per cent in ten years, figures revealed yesterday.

Do you hear? 400 per cent!! Sod Swine Flu, it's cocaine that's gonna finish of our kids at this rate.

It's ridiculous, isn't it. 400 percent of 4 is 24. 400 percent of 100 is 400. same percentage. Very different numbers. With out the numbers, the percentage increase means nothing.

The next paragraph, we finally get some numbers...
Casualty departments treated 60 under-18s who had taken the Class A drug last year - compared to just 16 in 1998/99

60 kids overdosing is too many. But is it a number to get hysterical about? And is the rise as big as The Sun is making out?

I will confess I'm not too good with figures, but I'll have a go.

First of all a 400% rise from 16 would be 64. From 16 to 60 is 375%, or x3.75. There the figure is coming down already. and over the 10 years the amount of deaths hospital admissions has increased on average by 4.4 kids a year.
Don't get me wrong, any amount of deaths hospitalisations is bad and an increase is definitely not good news. But has the rate increased, slowed or were the increase in deaths admissions all in one or two years? With out a comparison, or a figure to work out what percentage of kids actually doing coke are ODing, that figure for the rise in deaths admissions is also meaningless.
Maybe, just maybe that over the last ten years ODs' have increased by 400% 375% but the figure for the amount of under 18s that are doing coke has risen by 450%. That would mean the death admissions rate has actually dropped.

How does the amount of deaths admissions compare to the amount of kids? If there are only 70 kids doing coke, then these figures are catastrophic. But if there are thousand of young people doing coke up and down the country every weekend as we are led to believe then, tragic as it is, these deaths admissions do not call for a mass panic. The reasons why the increase need to be looked at, but to scream hysterically as the Sun wants you too, is a bit much.

The Suns' article then mentions how much coke costs. As little as £1 a line. That is like saying 'look how cheap petrol is. It's only 11p for 10mm.' It's a pointless exercise using those measurements, because you're just as likely to be able to buy 10mm of petrol as you are a single line of coke. 'A line' is not an official measurement, either. So one person would get 10 lines out of their gram of Colombian Marching Powder, someone else will get 30.

As I said before. I'm not saying that these kids don't matter, or that a rise in deaths hospital admissions is a good thing, just that lets have some more detail to get things in proportion. Without those figures, this article is so un-informative it might as well not have been written.

The post has been updated as I misread hospital admission for deaths, somehow. The point still stands, though.

I also said I wasn't too good at maths and Mark in the comments has corrected me here too. I was on the right lines but...
Oh, and their maths - and yours - is wrong.

400% of 16 is indeed 64, but a 400% rise would mean it increased by 64, giving a total of 80. The 60 that there actually were is a 275% increase.

Again the point of my article still stands and in fact because of my rubbish arithmetics I missed that not only are the figures out of context but that the 400% rise figure is just plain wrong, too.


Mark said...

Not deaths, hospital admissions. It didn't say how many of them died. So it's even less worrying.

Mark said...

Oh, and their maths - and yours - is wrong.

400% of 16 is indeed 64, but a 400% rise would mean it increased by 64, giving a total of 80. The 60 that there actually were is a 275% increase.

Sim-O said...

Ok, my bad with the deaths/hospital admissions mix up, but the point remains the same.

...and at least I was going in the right direction and I got closer than the Sun did, which makes it even worse.

Again, the point still stands, though. *phew*

Thanx for the corrections, Mark.