A few readers e-mailed me after my blog post about the county’s death rates for prescription drug use. They questioned whether the statistics took into account the number of hospitals in each city because that’s where people commonly die.

The data I used from the San Diego County Medical Examiner includes separate fields for where each person resided and where they died. I used the residence address in my analysis, because as the readers noted, where a person dies can skew the local statistics.

The perfect example of a statistical skew in San Diego County is La Mesa, which has a large hospital that people from eastern communities may rely upon for care. I completed the same prescription drug analysis as last week but used the location of each death (not the person’s hometown). Here’s the result:

La Mesa jumps way ahead of the pack, because the hospital is drawing from a greater population of people than just the city. This impacts the per capita ratio and its ranking among the county’s cities. It’s just an example of how statistics can be misleading and how small details can change the findings.


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