Home > All, General Rants, Security Issues > Statistically, I’m either gay, diseased, a single parent, living below the poverty line or all of them

Statistically, I’m either gay, diseased, a single parent, living below the poverty line or all of them

Scrolling idly through Ceefax (the BBC’s teletext news service) this evening I came across an item that will change my life: it will turn me into an introverted hermit, or at the very least will ensure I don’t kiss any of my neighbours this Christmas.

You’ll have to check my figures here because I wouldn’t get a pass even in today’s maths exams. However, it’s this: “…it emerged that there were half a million new STI cases in 2009, a 3% rise on the year before.”

OK, here we go, and talking in broad round figures: if 3% = 500,000, then 100% = 16,000,000. That is, there are approximately 16,000,000 STI infections in the UK.

The population of the UK is 61,792,000 (give or take a few recent births, deaths, immigrations, emigrations and deportations). That means that 16,000,000 in 62,000,000 UK residents have an STI; or, to avoid bits of people, one in every four is infected.

There are three people in this house. Next door, to my left is a family of four. And on my right is a single parent with one child. So that’s a total of nine people in the three houses. Statistically, two of those nine people have a sexually transmitted infection. But nobody in my house has an STI. That means there is a high likelihood that I am surrounded by STIs! Like I said, I’m not kissing anyone anymore…

These figures are sacrosanct. I got them from the BBC. That means I must either believe that I am surrounded by sexually transmitted infections, or I must doubt every single statistic I come across. And that would include things like computer virus infections, money lost to online fraud, hours lost through misuse of the internet…

Hmm. I’ll have to think about this one.

  1. August 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Actually, the 3% rise referred to reported cases compared to 2009, not the total population. Furthermore, I’d hope that a reasonably high proportion of the people who had an STI last year don’t have one this year. (The article does refer to a 1 in 10 reinfection rate among 15-24 year olds, but I don’t often get to kiss people in that age group, and never in contexts where I’d be significantly exposed to risk of infection.)

    But I’ve always had an optimistic streak, despite working in the security industry.

    Actually, the scope for misinterpretation in that article (it’s at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11072853, btw, if anyone wants a closer look at it) is a perfect analogue to the reasons that my company doesn’t give out absolute numbers for malware infections. Or extrapolate from figures thrown up by our telemetry to the entire Internet population. Seriously: that’s virus lab policy.


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