Simplifying Statistics


In December 2010 statistics were released that showed the UK is now the fattest nation in Europe. The figures came from a study by the European Commission and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which examined the health of people in 31 countries, including the 27 European Union member states.

Results showed that almost a quarter of adults in the UK are now obese, ahead of Ireland (23%), Malta (22%), Iceland (20%) and Luxembourg (20%). The slimmest nations at the other end of the scale were the Romanians, Italians and the French.

The long lists of figures and statistics used to compile these findings would be a daunting prospect for any news reader/viewer. On their own they present a relatively uninspiring piece of information; more importantly, as just numbers without a relative context, they are easily forgettable. I decided to create an infographic using the data to see whether I could make something more exciting.

The graph simplifies the dense information effectively. It also allows the viewer to position the UK’s obesity problem within the context of the other European countries. When information is presented in such a simplistic form it is far easier to process, and the message is so much clearer.

However this particular graph appears to look quite boring so I decided to use the same data about obesity and design another, more exciting visualization. Please click on the visualization to enlarge.

On another level, this kind of easily processed data consequently generates a response, and therefore more stories of similar interest. More recent articles have bounced off the back of the data released by the European Commission; notably the growing concern over the rise of obesity in young children.

A recent article written for the Independent Online entitled ‘Growing obesity crisis among UK kids’ has methodically sifted the data from a new report to form points that are succinct e.g. ‘A quarter are already overweight or obese when they start school at the age of four’. Data journalism sifts through the boring facts so that you can enjoy the interesting ones.

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About Emily Lingard

Ma Broadcast Journalism student
This entry was posted in Data Journalism Experiment, How is data journalism used? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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