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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Bad stats

A quick break from digital policy to question @fleetstreetfox on an assertion made on her blog today:
"Domestic violence is the main cause of death for women in Britain aged 19 to 44.

Read that again, and then look at it like this: being abused by a partner kills more women in that age group then cancer or road traffic accidents.

On average two women die at the hands of their partner every week."
Without detracting from the seriousness of domestic violence, I doubt this statistical assertion, and no matter how just your cause it usually helps in the long run to stick to the facts.

Mortality statistics are readily available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  The latest data available is for 2009 - the 2010 data set is due to be published towards the back end of next month.

Delving into the underlying data set (.xls) shows this simply cannot be true.  Even taking the broadest definition of death from assault (not all assault is in a domestic setting), and including deaths awaiting determination; and taking the narrowest definition of road accidents (car occupants)  shows 29 females per million population in the 15-44 age group died from all forms of assault compared to 39 car occupants (per million population).

There are a few disclaimers to this: (1) the statistics I quoted are for England and Wales only; and, (2) the age group I quoted is 15-44 not 19-44 as Fleet Street Fox stated.  However, there would have to be a huge disparity in Scotland and Northern Ireland, or in the 15-19 age groups, to even start to get anywhere near her assertion.

Another stark fact in the ONS data set is deaths from self harm (which includes intentional suicide and unintentional causes). 83 females per million population in the 15-44 age group are included in this category of death - again far greater than deaths through assault.

What about diseases?  Respiratory diseases: 75 per million population for females in this age range.  Digestive diseases? 139.

Cancer (malignant neoplasms)? 464 women per million population in the 15-44 age group died of cancer in 2009.  More than the total number of females of any age who died from any form of homicide in 2009 in the whole of the UK.


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