Mistaking correlation for causation isn't necessarily wise. It is, though, the main subject of this piece. Let's back track a little before getting too nerdy. Reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the internet, has oodles and oodles of information on it. The community-based message board provides us with kitchen and dining hacks. They also provide you with invaluable information you didn't know you needed. For instance, they put together a list of foods people love to hate. They've also got a Waffle House map that you're going to want to see.
Our favorite (albeit a morbid favorite) item we've seen recently has to do with death. One Reddit user created a map that correlates cardiac-related deaths with Waffle House locations. It's a different kind of Waffle House Index, if you will, than the kind you can use to track natural disasters.
As you can see, the actual location data on the Waffle House map is pretty astounding. And no, we shouldn't mistake correlation for causation. That said, there has to be some takeaway here.
No, we don't think that PolarisOrbit is right. Cardiac deaths obviously don't cause Waffle Houses.
The opposite of that, though, is also untrue. Waffle Houses don't directly cause cardiac deaths. What this map shows us must have to do with location in a more general sense.
There's no denying that the Waffle House base is in the east. We see a few out in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, but, truthfully, eastern Texas is as far as the breakfast chain's grip truly reaches.
There are dozens of locations through the American southeast. Waffle Houses dot the Gulf Coast, and they extend as far north as Ohio and Pennsylvania. In fact, if you trace the locations of the Waffle House restaurants, you can see where interstates are, like I-10 through the Florida panhandle into Louisiana or I-30 from Little Rock through Dallas-Fort Worth. That said, what differs between a state like Alabama and, say, Oregon?
Cardiac-related deaths are much more prevalent in the eastern part of the United States. It's not a population density thing, as California has both no Waffle House locations and very few instances of heart-related death. We're chalking it up to a lifestyle thing.
To say that everyone in the western half of the country lives this way and everyone in the east lives that way would be ignorant. The restaurant chain is headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, a little bit outside of Atlanta. With that in mind, it seems to go along with a lifestyle that, ultimately, leads to more heart disease and cardiac-related death.
Maybe it's the scattered and covered hash browns and grits and bacon and waffles on the full menu. Or maybe, with the large number of Waffle House locations along interstates, it's life on the road.
We're not doctors, though. We're just trying to connect the dots. We'd love to see a more current Waffle House map with health data, as this one is based on 2013 data. Does the same correlation still ring true? Have any ideas on this one? We'd love to know.
This article was originally published on November 21, 2017.