And yes, this is going to be a humorous entry, so don’t quit reading just because it said “statistics” in the title.
I was inspired today by Nightmare who discussed a recent study linking “cat” people and schizophrenia. This made me laugh out loud, mostly because I now have a cat living in my house, and I’m definitely headed down the path to schizophrenia. However, I think it has more to do with my intense cat allergy, and possibly all of the other major life changes that happened at the same time that the cat moved in. Life is like that, you know.
Of course, that got me thinking about all of the hilarious correlations that have very high statistical significance and are completely and utterly unrelated. For example… when the AFC loses in the Superbowl, the stock market’s performance increases. It’s happened 26 out of 29 times. So clearly, if you believe in the Superbowl Index, you will make your stock decisions for the following year accordingly.
Shark attacks and ice cream sales are strongly correlated (( Correlation does not always mean causation. )). I suppose people must buy a lot of ice cream when a loved one gets eaten by a shark. Or, perhaps sharks can sense when someone’s eaten a lot of ice cream, and then they attack. So next time you go to the beach, maybe you shouldn’t buy an ice cream cone before you swim. OR, it could be that the correlation is strong because both things typically occur in the summer months. Duh.
Breast cancer is highly correlated with working the night shift. So ladies, if you want to avoid getting breast cancer, you’d better get a day job. Scientists have been trying to figure this one out for years. The study was controlled for other factors like alchohol consumption, smoking, etc. So all research to date shows that this is a real correlation.
Men, if you shave less than once per day, you have a 70% increase in your odds of having a stroke. This one’s been explained, but it’s not entirely obvious. Men who shave at least once per day tend to have higher testosterone levels, which is a risk factor in strokes. But still.
Praying for women helps them conceive. The thing is… in this study, the women did not KNOW they were being prayed for. The study was conducted on women using in-vetro fertilization. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. No further explanation has ever been found.
Breast implants are highly correlated with suicide rates. If you get fake ones, you’re three times as likely to commit suicide as someone who doesn’t.
If your teeth fall out, you’re much more likely to have a heart attack. Sorry kids…
So, what do I mean to say by all of this? Well, first, if someone tells you X causes Y, they’re probably full of crap. X and Y may move together, but they may be completely and utterly unrelated. Sometimes there is a Z variable that’s causing both, and you just haven’t thought of what it is… and sometimes it’s just coincidence. Yes, coincidence DOES happen.
So next time some politician, lobbyist, or zealot tells you that “the numbers don’t lie,” just look him squarely in the eye, and say “You know what, 76.3% of statistics are made up on the spot, buddy. You aren’t fooling me!”