Evaluating the Impact of Missing Statistics on PostgreSQL Query Performance

Comparing PostgreSQL performance with and without up-to-date statistics can significantly illustrate the importance of statistics for database performance, particularly in query planning and execution efficiency. PostgreSQL uses statistics gathered by the ANALYZE command to choose the most efficient query execution plan. Missing or outdated statistics can lead to poor decisions, such as choosing a sequential scan over an index scan or misestimating the number of rows a query operation might return.

Impact of Up-to-Date Statistics on Performance

  1. Query Optimization: PostgreSQL’s query planner uses statistics to estimate the cost of different query plans and choose the most efficient one. Accurate statistics lead to better cost estimates and, consequently, more efficient query execution plans.
  2. Index Utilization: With accurate statistics, the planner can more effectively determine when to use indexes. This can drastically reduce the time required to execute queries by avoiding full table scans.
  3. Join Orders: For queries involving joins, up-to-date statistics help the planner determine the most efficient order to join tables. Incorrect join orders can significantly increase query execution time.

Performance with Missing or Outdated Statistics

  1. Inefficient Query Plans: Without accurate statistics, the planner may make suboptimal choices, such as unnecessarily using full table scans over index scans, leading to slower query responses.
  2. Resource Misallocation: The planner might allocate more resources than necessary for a query operation, affecting the overall system performance and leading to resource contention.
  3. Increased Planning Time: In some cases, the lack of statistics may cause the planner to spend more time evaluating different execution plans, which can slightly increase the planning time for queries.

Testing the Impact

To empirically compare PostgreSQL performance with and without up-to-date statistics, you can conduct a controlled test:

  1. Setup a Test Environment: Ensure you have a representative dataset and query workload.
  2. Baseline Performance Measurement: Execute your typical query workload and measure performance metrics such as execution time, CPU utilization, and I/O operations with up-to-date statistics.
    • Run ANALYZE on your database to ensure statistics are current.
  3. Invalidate Statistics:
    • Temporarily disable the autovacuum daemon to prevent it from updating statistics.
    • Use ALTER TABLE table_name ALTER COLUMN column_name SET STATISTICS -1; on several tables and columns to invalidate statistics. Be cautious with this step, as it affects query planning.
  4. Performance Measurement with Missing Statistics: Execute the same query workload and measure the performance metrics without up-to-date statistics.
  5. Analyze Results: Compare the performance metrics from both tests to identify differences. Look for increased execution times, higher resource consumption, and any changes in query plans.
  6. Restore Environment: Re-enable autovacuum and run ANALYZE on the entire database or affected tables to restore statistics.


While conducting such a test, you’ll likely observe a degradation in query performance when PostgreSQL operates with missing or outdated statistics. This experiment reinforces the importance of maintaining accurate statistics for optimal database performance. Regularly monitoring statistics health and configuring autovacuum and analyze settings appropriately are key practices for sustaining high performance in PostgreSQL databases.


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About Shiv Iyer 452 Articles
Open Source Database Systems Engineer with a deep understanding of Optimizer Internals, Performance Engineering, Scalability and Data SRE. Shiv currently is the Founder, Investor, Board Member and CEO of multiple Database Systems Infrastructure Operations companies in the Transaction Processing Computing and ColumnStores ecosystem. He is also a frequent speaker in open source software conferences globally.