Saturday, April 28, 2007

Damned lies and statistics

I consented to participate in a telephone survey today, conducted by a nice woman named Charmaine on behalf of the NSW Department of Health. I even gave some very private information about my life, my health, and a panoply of substances. Charmaine giggled a lot and said sweet non-official things in a charming Filipina accent.

One question Charmaine asked was "How many times have you changed the batteries in your house's smoke alarm?". The answer was "Never".

This bit of data is now in the government stats. What I was not asked was, "How long have you lived in your house?" (answer, "Three months") and "Are your batteries OK?" My smoke alarm batteries were fine, when I checked them not long ago. But I can see the screeching headline:

"Ten million per cent of NSW people have never changed their smoke alarm batteries!!"


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