Top of my list for discussion and awareness are the MND/ALS statistics and their use. It is the sole reason for the naming of this blog.
When I was diagnosed with MND, 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.
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 incidence, and as I will show it is a meaningless number, highly dangerous and should be confined to text books! It certainly should NEVER be used in the media!
Lets examine this 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 of the disease? – 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, 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 see 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.
ONS OFFICIAL STATISTICS – England and Wales – CAUSES OF DEATH
I first wrote this page way back in 2015 and I referred to the following ONS data for 2013 deaths.
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 Increasingly survive cancer and heart issues etc. But remember, the death cause 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 10 years of data showing the deaths per age group: