Diet & Weight Magazine

Understanding Absolute and Relative Risk

By Dietdoctor @DietDoctor1

Although it seems as if numbers should be objective and trustworthy, there are many ways that they can be used to distort the truth. Entire books have been written about this subject... like the 1954 classic, How to lie with statistics.

With chronic diseases, one of the most deceptive "sleights of hand" with numbers is the use of relative risk to report the size of an effect found in a study. Relative risk confuses unsuspecting readers; it can make even a tiny effect seem very large.

Let's take a look at the differences between absolute risk and relative risk.

Absolute risk is the chance, or probability, that a specific health event will happen to you (or to anyone in a similar group of people).

Relative risk, on the other hand, is the chance, or probability, that people in one group will experience a health event compared to people in another group.

You might ask, "Why does this matter?" Well, the two numbers - in exactly the same treatment scenario - can appear drastically different, with absolute risk being a very small number and relative risk seeming to be very large. This can distort perceptions about how successful and worthwhile a specific medical treatment may be for you personally.

For example, say in a group of 100 people, there is a risk that two people will have a heart attack. If you are in that group, your absolute risk of a heart attack is 2%. Now, let's say researchers conduct a study of a drug treatment for this condition. One group of 100 people gets a placebo (the control group), and another group of 100 people gets the drug - which could have significant side effects.

The study finds that while the control group had the expected two heart attacks, the treatment group had just one. Also, in the treatment group, 15 people experienced significant side effects. The absolute risk decreased by only 1% but the relative risk decreased by 50%! Your doctor might tell you "people who took this drug had a 50% better outcome." But your risk is really reduced by just 1% if you take the drug and there will be a 15% risk of experiencing the side effects.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Big Food Giants Manipulate Public Health Policy in China

    Food Giants Manipulate Public Health Policy China

    Coca-Cola is at it again. As soda sales decline in the United States and Europe, beverage companies look to emerging economies like China for growth. And, it... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Dietdoctor
  • Jewellery for a Precious You

    Jewellery Precious

    Jewellery is always close to a woman’s heart. It completes her look and boost confidence. Considering the changing trends in jewellery fashion, it becomes... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Dr.jenifer Sayyed
  • Rajshri Productions’ Next Is A Film On Friendship | Hum Chaar | Trailer

    Abhishek Dixit’s debut feature film Hum Chaar is a Bollywood film made under the banner of Rajshri’s film. Hum Chaar is written and directed by Abhishek Dixit. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Themoviean
  • Saint Paul the First Hermit

    Saint Paul First Hermit

    Today is the feast day of Saint Paul the hermit. This is a sweet and delicate Oatmeal Bread topped with rolled oats and naturally sweetened with agave. Saint... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Veronica46
  • Irupathiyonnaam Noottaandu | Teaser | Pranav Mohanlal | Arun Gopy

    Arun Gopy’s Irupathiyonnaam Noottaandu is an upcoming Malayalam action-drama feature film starring Pranav Mohanlal and Zaya David in the lead roles. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Themoviean
  • A Year Of Body Positivity

    Year Body Positivity

    Last January, as I sat there on New Years eve all set to make the same old resolutions I've made year after year for as long as I can remember, I realised how... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Sparklesandstretchmarks
  • Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – Jan 2019

    Garden Bloggers Bloom 2019

    Euphorbia rigidaWhen I went out to take the photos for this blog post I was surprised at how much was in flower dotted around the garden. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Patientgardener