These Are The Statistics That Have Defined 2018


Dr. Katie Spalding

Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.

Freelance Writer


Plastic and sunshine were this year's two greatest nemeses. Eskymaks/Shutterstock

As another bleak year draws to a close, it’s time to take stock of what we’ve learned in the last 12 months – for better or worse. And joining such listicles as 2018’s top password fails, most-discussed science, and most exciting military discoveries, comes the Statistics of the Year 2018, courtesy of the Royal Statistical Society itself.

No, we get it. Statistics isn't sexy. It isn’t cute, like zoology, or filled with the terrifying prospects of climate science. It’s nowhere near as kinky as anthropology. But like a two-dimensional love interest in a nineties teen comedy, what it lacks in glamour, it makes up for in smarts, and the Statistics of the Year offer a crucial snapshot into the highs, lows, and curiosities of 2018.


The Good

27.8 percent - the amount of electricity produced from solar power in one day during the UK heatwave.

2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record, thanks mostly to humanity’s never-ending quest to boil the planet to death, and this year UK citizens were treated to a summer so scorching that roads literally melted out from under them. Despite this, the UK Statistic of 2018 is the record-breaking proportion of electricity the country produced from solar power on June 30.

9.5 - the percentage point reduction in worldwide relative poverty over the last decade.


Poverty is relative. Somebody in the USA might be richer than someone in Malawi, but that won’t do them much good when they can’t afford basic healthcare. Luckily, this statistic puts the proportion of people living in relative poverty worldwide today at less than half of what it was in 2008. Hooray!


The Bad

64,946 - the number of measles cases in Europe between November 2017 and October 2018.

It’s been a baller year for conspiracy theorists in Europe, with anti-vaccine sentiment rising in the public and even in certain governments (Italy, we’re looking at you.) It’s not surprising, therefore, that the continent has seen a massive surge in measles cases, causing dozens of entirely preventable deaths. American readers shouldn’t get too smug though – you’re next.


6.4 percent - the proportion of executive directors in FTSE 250 companies who are women.

In the words of Tammy Wynette, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, and there are few places that’s more true than in the boardroom. This year we learned that only 6.4 percent of executive directors in FTSE 250 companies are women – a drop of nearly 20 percent since 2017.


The Ugly

90.5 percent - the proportion of plastic waste that never gets recycled. 


If TV has taught us anything, it is that every year comes with its own Big Bad, and 2018’s was, without a doubt, plastic. Plastic turned up everywhere – from pilot whales to polar bears, from the Arctic to the Caribbean. We ate plastic, seasoned our food with plastic, and even pooped plastic.

Despite a few glimmers of hope, the situation is still pretty dire. Instead of being recycled, about 12 percent of our discarded plastic ends up sent to incinerators, while a whopping 79 percent ends up in landfill or the natural environment.

To put it in perspective, that’s an estimated 6,300,000,000 tonnes of plastic that never sees a second outing – equivalent to over 1,000 Great Pyramids of Giza.

The Downright Criminal


16.7 percent - the reduction in the number of Jaffa Cakes in a Yard of Jaffa Cakes. 

It’s all too common to hear people complain about how much better things were in the past (they weren’t, honest) but sometimes, they might just have a point. For people in the UK, life got that little bit less sweet this year when the traditional festive “Yard of Jaffa Cakes” turned out to only contain 40 jaffa cakes – a reduction of 16.7 percent, and a flagrant insult to the definition of “yard”.

Other statistics that made the list included 40 percent, the number of Russian men who don't live to see 65 (because of the vodka. Really.) and $1.3 billion, the amount wiped off the value of Snapchat in a single day after Kylie Jenner tweeted her disapproval of the app’s redesign.

And if problem drinking and Kylie Jenner doesn’t sum up 2018, we don’t know what does.


Apart from plastic.