So why is my blog called

When I was diagnosed with MND, back in 2014, the statistics presented to the public were, to put it bluntly, awful, very technical and confusing. Did they highlight the urgency of the disease? No.

Every year, in the UK, consistently 2000 people die of MND. There has been no let up. The numbers are also rising, slightly, because of age demographics.

But there is more behind this data than meets the eye….

The bare technical numbers for our disease are that about 2 or 3 in every 100,000 of population per year develop the disease. This is known as an incidence statistic, and as I will show, it is a meaningless number, highly dangerous and should be confined to text books! It certainly should NEVER NEVER be used in the media!

Lets examine the incidence statistic…

  • This fact is a fact i.e. accurate.
  • However, does it tell the real story and is it the most powerful and appropriate figure that should be used when trying to raise awareness and seek funds for disease research? – Answer: absolutely and categorically NO.


  • What it means, is that for every 100,000 of population, every year, 2 people are diagnosed.
  • The fact is almost always incorrectly quoted and misunderstood as 2 in 100000 people will get the disease – WRONG! Take a look at Colin Pritchard’s article in the Guardian to see the mistake in action. Even professionals get it totally wrong!
  • Every year, each of us that remain unaffected still exists in the population. So our chance for a lifetime is cumulative. Tick, tick, tick…
  • In addition, your chances increase with age (there are peaks in your 50s and late 60s) – this is a staggered rise…
  • Virtually no one in their first 20 years develops the disease, but they do!
  • The population is always being fed with new born, thus lowering the yearly incidence numbers.
  • All other major diseases today are expressed as a lifetime risk and not incidence statistics.

So what is my point here?

Your lifetime risk of developing the disease most feared by healthcare professionals, i.e. the real risk of developing MND in your life, is estimated at about 1 in 300!!!!

WOW that is scary! That’s 3 children in each and every average school, sitting blissfully unaware, in the UK, that will develop the disease in their lifetime!

If you want to know more and read the detail, please read on, and if you want even more dramatic stats that emphasise the threat of this disease, skip straight to the UK Office of National Statistics section on death causes below. It’s brutal, folks!

The following peer reviewed papers provide the core evidence for the lifetime risk, and are developed from several population studies.



I first wrote this page way back in 2015 and I referred to the following ONS data for 2013 deaths.–deaths-registered-in-england-and-wales–series-dr-/2013/dr-table5-2013.xls

and 2014 deaths:

Simple analysis of these datasets showed that in 2014 the chance of a death being caused by MND was 1/278 and for deaths under the age of 75 the chance was 1 in 155!

Up to date data can now be obtained from this rather interesting explorable data link.

For 2019, the latest figures available, as of Sept 2020, the death rates are about the same, 1 in 266, with the rate under the age of 75 being 1 in 149 (slightly up on last year).

The death data is probably more indicative of the real chance of developing the disease as people are increasingly surviving cancer and heart issues etc. But, even this death rate may even hide further cases or deaths from respiratory MND as they may be recorded simply as ‘pneumonia’ and so further understating the real risk.

For those who like graphics here are the last 12 years of data showing the deaths per age group:

If you really like statistics then why not take a read of my Devil is in the detail research series? Statistics are vital in the reporting and understanding of clinical trials, but they are often very misrepresented/misquoted on social media. Take a look at, for example, one of my statistics’s posts, I thought the weather report said it would rain which focuses on those numbers and charts you often see within press releases and papers.

6 thoughts

  1. Lee, I agree that the 2 in 100,000 statistic is a really bad one. It is often quoted and makes it seem a very rare disease, while the truth is that is is far more common than one thinks. So I do like the more truthful “causes as many deaths per year in the UK as car crashes and other transport accidents”. I have already shared the blog on FB.


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