Helping Doctors and Patients Make Sense of Health Statistics

Steve Simon


This page is currently being updated from the earlier version of my website. Sorry that it is not yet fully available.

Helping Doctors and Patients Make Sense of Health Statistics. Gerd Gigerenzer Wolfgang Gaissmaier Elke Kurz-Milcke Lisa M. Schwartz Steven Woloshin. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 2008: 8(2); 53-96. [Abstract] [PDF]. Excerpt: Many doctors, patients, journalists, and politicians alike do not understand what health statistics mean or draw wrong conclusions without noticing. Collective statistical illiteracy refers to the widespread inability to understand the meaning of numbers. For instance, many citizens are unaware that higher survival rates with cancer screening do not imply longer life, or that the statement that mammography screening reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer by 25% in fact means that 1 less woman out of 1,000 will die of the disease. We provide evidence that statistical illiteracy (a) is common to patients, journalists, and physicians; (b) is created by nontransparent framing of information that is sometimes an unintentional result of lack of understanding but can also be a result of intentional efforts to manipulate or persuade people; and (c) can have serious consequences for health. Added 2008-11-18 to Category: Critical appraisal.

You can find an earlier version of this page on my original website.