The power of statistics

Statistics are used to inform policies that impact on millions of people. Statistical methods are applied in all fields that involve decision-making, using a body of data to make informed guesses despite lack of definite knowledge.

Statistics have become a key feature of social science, and are applied across a range of disciplines including economics, psychology, political science, sociology and anthropology. Using sources such as surveys, censuses and administrative records, statisticians collect and analyse data to give us large-scale and small-scale impressions of our complex society – building a clearer picture of where we are and where we’re going.

The history of statistics stretches back to the 18th century, but large-scale statistical processing and analysis emerged with the onset of the computer age in the 1960s.

An example of modern statistical analysis is MAP2030 (Modelling Ageing Populations to 2030), a research programme under the New Dynamics of Ageing initiative. MAP2030 used statistics to develop simulation models going up to year 2030, exploring the future needs and resources for long-term elderly care and pension policy.