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199 Dsa, Kemp House, 152-160
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Statistics: Risk and Probability

Risk & Probability in Vesalian Resources

What is risk?

There are actually a few different definitions. Some people use it to mean the same thing as ‘chance’ or ‘probability’.

At Vesalian, we think of it as one thing that combines the answer to two questions:

  • How likely is a specific bad thing to happen? and
  • How bad would that thing be?

Benefits and risks of treatment options

This is particularly relevant to the information we provide about possible side-effect of medications.

We show you, based on trusted sources of evidence, roughly how common it is for people to get a side-effect with a particular treatment. We also show how severe that side-effect is, compared to other side-effects.

It is important to note that we can’t tell you what your personal risk is. There are several reasons why not:

Probability:

  • data from research only allows us to estimate how many people out of a large group experience a side-effect, not which individual will get it; and
  • there are lots of factors that might make it more or less likely that you would experience a side-effect compared to the whole population.

Severity:

  • we can indicate how severe a side-effect is compared to other side-effects, based on medical analysis but only you can decide how bad you think that side-effect would be
  • we can compare how severe one side-effect is compared to another (for example, kidney failure is more severe than a headache) but we can’t tell you how bad your headache would be if you got one, compared to any other headache.

The same principles apply to the potential benefits of a treatment. For the same reasons we can’t tell you what your personal benefit from treatment will be.

Risk and probability

Statistical significance

Uncertainty and ‘confidence intervals’

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