Cartoon zombie

Zombie Statistics – can they ever Die?

Do you believe in zombies? It’s possible you do but don’t realize it. It’s possible you even have some on your web site! So, let’s make sure that you do what you can to root out all the zombies in your life.

So what exactly is a zombie statistic? It’s a number that seems dramatic, is commonly cited, and either has no basis in fact or has been disproven by future research. I would personally expand that definition to include outdated recommendations. Probably the most famous zombie statistic is the one about how women above a certain age are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married. (The actual age and other details tend to vary.)

One example is the recommendation that pregnant women should not let their heart rate exceed 140 beats per minute. This was, at one point, an official recommendation. But it was replaced by new recommendations in 1994, and it continues to live on and be cited on web sites and in books to this day.

Another example that I often see online is doulas quoting very old research on the dangers of Cytotec. The early studies on the use of Cytotec for labor induction used very different protocols for administering the drug. The whole pill was used, rather than the much smaller quarter pill that most places use for labor induction today. More current studies that use the current dosing protocol are the ones we should be sharing with clients if they need information on the risks and benefits.

Hilda Bastien says that she believes part of the reason zombie statistics won’t die is confirmation bias. We *want* to believe that Cytotec is bad, so we easily believe and pass on without checking. Similarly, another set of what I would consider zombie statistics are the “benefits of a doula” statistics that so many doulas put on their web site.

While those studies are an accurate representation of the situation studied thirty years ago, there is plenty of research done in a variety of settings. To use doula statistics ethically, you should be using the latest numbers gleaned from studies done in a similar setting to where you practice.

The best way to avoid falling victim to a zombie is to be skeptical. If you hear a statistic, ask for a source. Do this either to debunk it or to build a firmer foundation for your beliefs. And go take a look at that source with a critical eye. Remember to always check the back seat!

You may not be able to kill the zombies yourself, but you can avoid letting a zombie statistic eat your brain. And you can definitely fight back against the zombie apocalypse!