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In Depth Analysis

Vital Statistics - Archive

by Trevor Butterworth

Spam power
The annual amount of energy to transmit, process, and filter spam globally comes to 33 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes.

Source: McAfee

Preventative benefits (Apr 13)
Delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by five years could reduce health care costs by $2 trillion.

Source: Center for Medicine in the Public Interest

Instant fatification (Apr 7)
Children aged four who failed in a test of their ability to delay gratification were linked to a 30 percent greater risk of being overweight seven years later. This ability is modifiable in pre-school children through parental control.

Source: Seeyave DM, et al "Ability to delay gratification at age 4 years and risk of overweight at age 11 years" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2009; 163(4): 303-308, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,

Brain warming (Mar 10)
For every 9 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature, the incidence of migraine increased by 7.5 percent.

Source: WebMD

Stroke factors (Feb 24)
A new observational study of 20, 040 men and women who followed four health behaviors - not smoking, being physically active, moderate alcohol consumption, and eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day - reduced their risk of stroke. There was a linear decrease in the risk of stroke for each additional behavior. The researchers concluded that "four health behaviours combined predict more than a twofold difference in incidence of stroke in men and women."

Source: British Medical Journal.

But how many guests? (Feb 10)
The most recent data shows that 2,205,000 Americans got married in 2007. The rate was 7.3 per 1000, down from 7.4 in 2006 and 7.6 in 2005.

Source: CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths: Provisional Data for 2007.

Watch Out! (Feb 2)
The odds of a person in the United States sustaining a non-fatal injury from interacting with a television set are 1 in 5613.

Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Online.
Annual Estimates of the Population by Five-Year Age Groups and Sex for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006. U.S. Census Bureau, Online

No to Scopes (Jan 19)
A little over half of Americans – 53.3 percent – believe that man did not evolve from an earlier species of animal.

Source: Baylor General Social Survey

Watch out! (Jan 9)
The odds of a person in the United States sustaining a non-fatal injury from interacting with a television set are 1 in 5613.

Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Online.
Annual Estimates of the Population by Five-Year Age Groups and Sex for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006. U.S. Census Bureau, Online

Paging Galileo (Jan 5)
In answer to the question “How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one
day, one month, or one year?” 19.8 percent of a statistically representative sample of the population of the United States chose one day, one percent chose one month, and 0.2 percent offered an alternative time period. The rest got it right.

Source: The National Data Program for the Social Sciences

So much for computer productivity (Dec 8)
65 percent of all online viewers watch online videos between 9am and 5pm during the week. (Dec 8)

Source: Nielsen, via Readwriteweb.

Baldness no boon for vitamin D retention (Dec 8)
Higher levels of vitamin D in middle aged and older men not driven by baldness. Researchers caution that undisclosed "comb overs" could have skewed results.

Source: "Does degree of baldness influence vitamin D status?" The Medical Journal of Australia.

"Cyberchondria" (Nov 28)
The abundance of medical information on the web has given rise to cyber-hypochondria in surfers who don't know hot to interpret symptoms, according to a study of 515 people who conducted health-related Internet searches.

Source: Microsoft Research

Particulate poison (Nov 13)
Smog kills more people than car crashes in the most heavily-polluted areas of the country: There were 2,521 vehicular deaths in the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin in 2006, compared to 3,812 deaths attributed to respiratory illness caused by particulate pollution, according to a study by researchers at Cal State Fullerton.

Source: Associated Press

Gullibility measured (Nov 12)
It takes 12,500,000 spam emails to produce one response, according to a new study by a team of computer scientists in California who infiltrated a spamming network and placed ads for a fake pharmacy site and herbal libido-boosting supplement. Twenty-six days and 350 million email messages later, they had 28 sales.

Source: Tech Radar

Blue, purple and red (Nov 11)
What happens when you create a voting map of the U.S. that accounts for population disparities and actual voting choices?

usa cartogram

Source: Mark Newman, Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan.

Nightmares (Nov 6)
Twisters that occur between midnight and dawn are 2.5 times more likely to kill than daytime torndadoes. The danger of a nocturnal tordano is also greater in the mid-South than the Great Plains, and the fatality rate is excacerbated by the Southeast having the highest proportion of mobile homes in the U.S.

Source: American Meteorological Society (2008, November 6). Nighttime Tornadoes Are Worst Nightmare: Twisters That Occur From Midnight To Dawn Are 2.5 Times More Likely To Kill, via ScienceDaily.

TV sex stimulates teens (Nov 3)
The more sex scences teenagers saw on television, the greater the correlation with becoming pregnant or getting a partner pregnant. Teens who watched the most sex on TV (90th percentile) were twice as likely to experience pregnancy as those who watched the least TV (10th percentile).

Source: Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Pediatrics , 5 November 2008

White Flight (Oct 21)
White men and women aged between 40 and 64 are committing suicide more, accounting for the bulk of a 0.7 percent annual rise in the overall suicide rate from 1999 and 2005.

Source: "Mid-Life Suicide: An Increasing Problem in U.S. Whites, 1999-2005," December 2008, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, via Science News.

Stayin Alive (Oct 17)
A forthcoming study finds that listening to or even recalling the Bee Gee’s song, “Stayin Alive,” from the movie Saturday Night Fever helped people doing CPR to accurately time chest compressions. The song's 103 beats per minute is close to the optimum chest compression rate of 100 beats per minute.
Source: Canadian Press, study will be presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians in Chicago.

Smoking stunts life (Oct 14)
In a study of 1,654 white men of similar socioeconomic status, who were all evaluated as healthy in 1974, participants who never smoked were found to have lived a mean of 10 years longer than smokers when reevaluated in 2000. Nonsmokers also fared better on health-related quality of life factors than smokers.

Source: The Effect of Smoking in Midlife on Health-Related Quality of Life in Old Age, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008;168, October 13, 2008

It's a man's world (Oct 6)
Women who change gender to become men earn slightly more than before, while men who change gender and become women earn a third less on average.

Source: Before and After: Gender Transitions, Human Capital, and Workplace Experiences, B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy; see also Time for a good discussion of the limitations and broader context of the wage gap.

Paper truths (Sept 29)
MBA students were significantly more likely to lie in email communication than when communicating using pen and paper. A second study showed that they still lied, although at a lesser rate, when the communication was to someone they knew.

Source: "Being Honest Online: The Finer Points of Lying in Online Ultimatum Bargaining," via Science Daily

Male sexist piggy banks (Sept 23)
A new study shows that men who hold more traditional views of gender roles earn significantly more than men with comparable jobs but who hold more egalitarian, progressive views.

Source:  “Is the Gap More Than Gender? A Longitudinal Analysis of Gender,
Gender Role Orientation, and Earnings,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 2008, vol 93

Pavlov’s popups (Sept 22)
In a study of Internet popup warning messages, 63 percent of participants were unable to distinguish fake popups from real ones, even when prepped for the fact that some of the messages would be fake and could trigger malevolent software.

Source: "Failure to Recognize Fake Internet Popup Warning Messages," Proceedings of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, via Eureka Alert.

Adult gamers beat the fat but not the blues
A study of 7000 adult gamers found that the average body mass index was 25.2, compared with 28 for the general American population, but were more prone to depression and substance abuse.

Source: New Scientist

Less than 10 percent of state arts budgets went on arts education in the past 20 years. In order to arrest the declining interest in the arts, say Rand researchers, more effort needs to go towards education.

Source: Cultivating Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy.

Outback despair
In Australia, the suicide rate for male agricultural workers is over twice that of the overall population (17.74 per 100,000 compared to 36.58 per 100,000)

Source: Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, via ABC news.

What your doctor makes from you
Out of $100 dollars spent on a typical 30-minute visit to the doctor, $41 goes to the doctor after all other expenses have been paid, according to Robert Lowes, senior editor at Medical Economics

$3.50 for malpractice insurance
$3.50 for equipment, repairs, and maintenance
$6 for supplies, including gowns, tongue depressors, and copy paper
$7 for rent and utilities
$11 for office expenses, such as telephones, accounting fees, advertising, medical journals, licenses, and taxes
$28 for secretary, office manager, and medical assistant salaries and benefits
$41 Amount that goes into the doctor's paycheck

This adds up to $155,000 a year, or a sum equal to the annual salary of the average family physician.

Source: Reader's Digest

Dumbed down?
Americans aged 55-59 possess more masters, professional and doctoral degrees than those aged 30-34.

Source: The Accelerating Decline in America's High-Skilled Workforce: Implications for Immigration Policy, Jacob Funk Kierkegaard, Peterson Insitute for International Economics. (Discussion, Financial Times)

Cities are also green
In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 on gasoline; in April 2008, the same household spent $3,196.

Source: Rethinking the Country Life as Energy Costs Rise, The New York Times, data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Snow woes
Snowboarding injuries accounted for 26 percent of emergency room visits in 2004-2005, followed by sledding with 10.6 percent. Bicycling injuries, except for mountain biking, were excluded from the survey.

Source: Centers for Disease Control via the AP

The path to addiction
A child who has four or more traumatic experiences has a 500 percent increased risk of alcoholism.

Source: The Origins of Addiction, Vincent J. Felitti MD

TV traumas
A survery of 1,600 Britons found that 29 percent had "fallen in love" with a television character, and 22 percent felt depressed when their favorite show ended.

Source: The Herald

OD vs homicide
In 2005, 22,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses, while 17,000 died from homicide.

Source: CDC, via MSN Health and Fitness

Cutting statistics
In Chicago, the rate of lower limb amputation is five times higher for African Americans than Caucasians even as the total number of amputations declined. High rates of diabetes are a significant causal factor.

Source: Journal of Vascular Surgery, May 2008, via Science Direct.

Life expectancy decline in U.S.
In the U.S., life expectancy among the worst off is declining, due mostly to lung cancer, obesity and overweight, homicide and other non-communicable diseases, which have stepped in to offset the gains made by reducing heart disease.

Source: The Reversal of Fortunes: Trends in County Mortality and Cross-County Mortality Disparities in the United States in PLoS Medicine.

In 2007, there were 281 billion gigabytes of digital information worldwide, or 45 gigabytes per person. Yearly growth is estimated at 60 percent and, if growth continues at this rate, there will be 1.8 zettabytes of digital information by 2011...

Biofuel bombshell
A one-way commercial flight from London to New York would require the annual yield from 30 football pitches of land (plus add in fertilizer, processing, distribution costs)...

Source: Royal Society of Chemistry

Take that Neil Armstrong!
One third of British children between four and ten years of age believe Winston Churchill was the first man to walk on the moon. Two in five believed that Mars referred only to a candy.

Source: Survey of 1,400 British children conducted by the Royal Astronomical Society and Walt Disney, via The Daily Telegraph.

The average frequency of a catastrophic earthquake is three per century; but new research also shows they are more randomly distributed than previously thought...

Source: Discovery News

Americans have a one in 15,942 chance of sustaining a non-fatal injury opening or closing their garage doors.

Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Online.
Annual Estimates of the Population by Five-Year Age Groups and Sex for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006. U.S. Census Bureau, Online.
Annual Estimates of the Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006. U.S. Census Bureau, Online.

Truck stopped
Truck drivers are 49% more likely to die of heart attack than the general population.

Source: Harvard Medical School, via Sacramento Bee

Infectious disease among U.S. infants

The national infectious disease hospitalization rate in 2003 (the latest date for data) was 7010.8 hospitalizations per 100000 live births. "Infectious disease hospitalization rates were highest among boys and nonwhite infants. The most commonly listed diagnoses among the infant infectious disease hospitalizations included lower respiratory tract infections (59.0%), kidney, urinary tract, and bladder infections (7.6%), upper respiratory tract infections (6.5%), and septicemia (6.5%). The median cost of an infectious disease hospitalization was $2235, with total annual hospital costs of approximately $690 million, among infants in the United States."

Source: Infectious Disease Hospitalizations Among Infants in the United States, Pediatrics, February 2008, Volume 121, Issue 2

Unhappiness is a U-shaped curve
Women on average are most miserable in the U.S. when they hit 40; men, when they hit 50. Ditto for 70 other countries, according to a study. The American and British researchers looked at 35 years worth of data on two million people from 80 nations.

Source: Social Science & Medicine via Scientific American

Only 5.5 percent of people pay full attention to television commercials on a regular basis.

Source: BIGresearch, 11th Simultaneous Media Survey.

Study: Generation Google not web literate
Those who were born or grew up in Internet age are, paradoxically, not very web-literate: "Research-behaviour traits that are commonly associated with younger users – impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs – are now becoming the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors," according to the first ever virtual longitudinal study by researchers in Britain.

Source: Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, CIBER, University College London.

Drug-coated stents safe
Drug coated stents reduced arterial re-narrowing by one-third compared with bare-metal stents in a study of 6,551 people.

Source: A Comparison of Bare-Metal and Drug-Eluting Stents for Off-Label Indications,New England Journal of Medicine, January 24, 2008

If you're happy and you know It, eat a cake
A Japanese study of 30,722 people aged 40–64 found that extraversion was associated with being overweight, whereas neuroticisim was associated with being underweight.

Source: Journal of Psychosomatic Research, January 2008.

Ladies night
Harvard researchers say women have better odds of winning an Oscar than men because of arithmetic: same number of awards, fewer female performers in movies.

Source: Los Angeles Times

So that explains It
Survey: Journalists are moderately exhausted and highly cynical.

Source: Newspaper Journalism in Crisis, Scott Reinardy, Ph.D. Ball State University Department of Journalism

The World Anti Doping Code allows for three times more alcohol per litre of blood for powerboating than for motorcycling or archery (.3g/L vs .1g/L).

Source: The World Anti Doping Code 2008 Prohibited List.

Marriage is not a key to happiness

(at least if you're German)
A survey of 24,000 Germans found that marriage did not fundamentally alter people's level of happiness: Even though people reacted positively to getting married, they ultimately eturned to their previous set level of happiness or unhappiness.

Source: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, March 2003, via Psychology Today

Black death
There were 2,118 worldwide cases of the “Black Death” plague in 2003. Annually, 10-20 people in the U.S. contract the “Black Death” plague each year, however no transmissions between people have occurred since 1924.

Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Biodefense, general information.

Lead leaders
Missouri tops the U.S. in lead released into the soil (40,656,278 lbs) and water (4,408 lbs) between 1987 and 1993.

Source: Consumer factsheet on lead in drinking water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Wealth woes
" In a sample of 314 tenth-graders in a wealthy suburban community, the rate of “clinically significant anxiety” was 5 to 9 percent higher than the national average, and among girls, the rate of “clinically significant depression” was three times the national norm."

Source: Jennifer Senior citing research by Suniya Luthar of Columbia Teacher's College in " Rich Kid Syndrome," New York Magazine

Have the Dutch peaked?
Since 2001, the average height of Dutch men, which had increased by an inch since 1980, has remain stuck at a little over 5'11 (180.6 centimeters). Gains for women since 2001 have been just a fraction of an inch, with the average being 5'6 (160.6 cm).

Source: Holland's Central Bureau for Statistics via the Associated Press

Belt up
Obese Americans are less likely to use seatbelts than the rest of the population; 82.6% percent of drivers with a Body Mass Index (BMI) lower than 25 always wore a seatbelt, compared to 80.1 percent of drivers with a BMI between 25-29, 76.6 percent for those with a BMI between 30-39, and 69.8 percent with a BMI of 40 and higher.

Source: Obesity, November 2007.


Loss (winter) (’96-‘98)*

All Winter fires

Winter holiday fires

Winter holiday decoration fires

$ Loss/fire




Injuries/1,000 incidents




Fatalities/1,000 incidents





Loss (winter) (’96-‘98)*

Winter holiday candle fires

Winter holiday Christmas tree fires


$ Loss/fire




Injuries/1,000 incidents




Fatalities/1,000 incidents




*Note, all loss measures like the graphs as followed are a 3-year average of given years

  • Over 100 fires each year are caused by children during New Years
  • In the U.S., 2 residential structure fires occur per day throughout the year, while 9 residential structure fires occur per day during the winter holiday season

Source: Residential Structure Fires During the Winter Holiday Season, U.S Fire Administration, Topical Fire Research Series, 2002