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University of Wollongong Australia

Statistics for Health: Statistical Definitions

Common terms

Incidence: the number of newly diagnosed cases during a specific time period.

Life Expectancy: the average number of years of remaining life from a particular age based on the probabilities of death in each age group in one particular year.

Lifetime Risk: the probability of developing or dying of a specific disease.

Morbidity: the proportion of patients with a particular disease during a given year per given unit of population.

Mortality: all deaths reported in a given population during a specific time period. A measure of the incidence of death.

Prevalence: the number of new and pre-existing cases alive on a certain date. The proportion of persons with a particular disease or condition at a point in time.

Reporting Bias: an assessment bias that occurs when individuals in one group are more likely to report past events than individuals in another group.  Reporting bias is especially likely to occur when one group is under disproportionate pressure to report confidential information.

Sensitivity and Specificity: measures for assessing the results of diagnostic and screening tests. Sensitivity represents the proportion of truly diseased persons in a screened population who are identified as being diseased by the test. It is a measure of the probability of correctly diagnosing a condition. Specificity is the proportion of truly nondiseased persons who are so identified by the screening test. It is a measure of the probability of correctly identifying a nondiseased person.

Survival: the proportion of patients alive at some point subsequent to the diagnosis of their specific disease.

Vital Statistics: used for general articles concerning statistics of births, deaths, marriages, etc.

 Health Statistics Guide, Norris Medical Library - University of Southern California 2010

Epidemiology/Public Health

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare - various publications. Note: for quota-free versions, access through the Library Catalogue

Bodenheimer, T and Grumbach, K 2012, Understanding health policy: a clinical approach, 6th edn, McGraw Hill, New York. (Access Medicine)

Gordis, L 2009, Epidemiology, 4th edn, Elsevier, Philadelphia, PA. (ClinicalKey)

Greenberg, R 2005, Medical epidemiology, 4th edn, McGraw Hill, New York. (Access Medicine)

Katz, DL 2014, Jekel's epidemiolgy, biostatistics, preventive medicine and public health, 4th edn, Elsevier, Philadelphia PA. (ClinicalKey)

Last, J 2007, A dictionary of public health, Oxford University Press, New York. (Oxford Reference Online)

Wilkinson and Marmot 2003, Social determinants of health: the solid facts, 2nd edn, World Health Organization, Denmark.

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