You could be a busy researcher, commissioner, journalist, charity campaigner or university academic writing a strategy, proposal or story – looking for reliable information to back up your work.
One way to access information to help you in your work is by using data from official government statistics. Here, we look at the top five reasons why you should use statistics in your profession.
1. Saves you time
You are a busy professional with a never-ending to-do list. You need statistics at your fingertips from a reliable source. Using a list of statistics from an official body such as the UK Statistics Authority saves you hours of searching around a number of different sources.
2. It’s regulated
You don’t always know how reliable statistics are if they come from think tanks or political bodies. Are they skewed by political agendas? The Office for Statistics Regulation is a government organisation that assesses official statistics for compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. They have to remain neutral.
3. Helps you create useful policy based on need
You can’t create useful strategy and policy if you don’t have access to reliable statistics. If you don’t know what the current state of play is, how do you create effective policy that aims to improve services or provision of care? Looking at current information will help to inform your decision-making.
4. Adds credibility
If you’re a researcher putting in for a grant, statistics are vital to the credibility of your application – you need to show that there is a need for the work you would like funding for.
5. Improves evaluation
Statistics on local issues, services or topics can be used to evaluate whether an intervention has worked or not. As well as using information to fill gaps, it can be used as a baseline to measure improvement in the future. For example, health trusts could look at the figures for the number of people who self-harm. Have those figures gone down because of the intervention they have put in place? Has wellbeing improved since a specific service was introduced?
Dr Sara Nelson, Head of Research & Insight at Evolving Communities, said: “The use of statistics can help a wide of variety of people in their professions and the benefits will vary depending on the work involved.
“Commissioners from councils or Clinical Commissioning Groups will use statistics to create policy and strategy for their local areas. If they are putting together a mental health strategy, they will need to know various related statistics for their area and more on a national level. Do they have more people who say they suffer from an illness from the national average? If yes, why is this and what can be done to deal with it?
“Charities may also use statistics in their campaign literature to help raise funds for their cause to show to supporters or grant-makers that their service is needed.”
Do you use statistics in your work?
Take part in national research to help shape the way you access official statistics. The Office for Statistics Regulation and Evolving Communities wants to know how you use statistics on mental health and what you think about the current information available to you (England only).
Join a regional focus group in January – visit [survey link closed] for more details, or share your views in a short survey (closes 17 January 2020)