When we consider the many warnings we receive from organisations such as the NHS about the types of behaviours that are healthy/unhealthy for, perhaps the answer is no. Smokers are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than non-smokers (http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/smoking09) and yet think about how many of the people you know who are smokers. Despite many warnings from a various number of sources about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol, on average, 3000 people are killed or seriously injured each year in drink-drive collisions (http://www.drinkdrivingfacts.com/drinkdriving/drink_driving_facts.aspx). With so many, and such strong, statistics, why is it that people decide to act in such a way? Perhaps statistics have no effect on our behaviour.
However, a few years ago I heard an advert on the radio from the NHS. The advert was concerning the low amount of blood donors regularly giving blood and it truly shocked me to learn that only 4% of the population donate blood. As soon as I got home I went to the internet and found that this 4% was only concerning the people who were ELIGIBLE to give blood. That meant that about 96% of the people who seemingly had no reason to not give blood weren’t doing so. This made me feel very guilty. I knew many people who are absolutely terrified of needles which might discourage them, but I was never bothered by needles at all. So why wasn’t I giving blood? That day I checked the date for the next session for my local area and went along (dragging a few others with me!) and I continue to donate as regularly as I can. So perhaps statistics can change behaviour? Or am I just a very easily persuaded person?! (For adverts concerning blood donation see http://www.blood.co.uk/video-audio-leaflets/tv-radio-ads/ and for general information about blood donations visit http://www.blood.co.uk/)
According to some people, there are a few factors that influence how people are motivated to act: fear, fun, obligation, reward (http://www.selfcareforum.org/?tag=behaviour-change). I would argue that my decision to become a blood donor was due to at least three of these motivations; fear that someone I could potentially help could die, obligation to help as I was perfectly eligible and the reward of feeling good about myself for doing something good. So perhaps we need to be aware of how our statistics are presented as well as how they are calculated? Maybe if we take into consideration some of the motivations for changing behaviour we can create meaningful, truthful statistics that enhance human behaviours.
And now, because it is that part of year, there is just enough time to get a little festive (statistically of course!). Sometimes during the holiday season strain can be felt by some people due to the sheer amount of money spent during such a short space of time. On this website http://www.eauk.org/resources/info/statistics/christmas-quotes-surveys-and-statistics.cfm it explains that about 19% of people feel less able to manage their own mental health due to the stress of handling money over Christmas. Also, over 50% admitted that they had spent more than they could afford during the holidays. If I tell you this, then am I going to convince you not to spend as much money? Possibly not as this only focuses on the fear aspect of motivation. However, if I tell you that the same survey suggests that 90% of under 18s would gladly receive fewer presents for Christmas in order for their families to feel less pressure would that perhaps convince you that you don’t need to spend so much? Like the saying my mum refers to almost every year; that you spend X amount of pounds on a new toy for a child and they end up playing with the cardboard box it came in. Doesn’t that just warm the chambers of your heart?
So instead of going out this Christmas time and spending all your dollar, spread a little Christmas cheer. According to the statistics it will only make things better. But can statistics change YOUR behaviour?
Merry Christmas everyone!