Can You Really Trust the Health News You Read Online?

TIME

Are science-backed headlines bad for your health? A new study published in The BMJ shows that you can’t always trust what conclusions news stories draw about the latest research.

Researchers wanted to look at how often press coverage misrepresents scientific studies. So they analyzed 462 press releases from 20 leading research universities in the UK, comparing their claims to those found in the peer-reviewed paper on which they were based. After analyzing the news stories those press releases generated, the researchers traced whether the papers’ claims got inflated in translation to mainstream media. They focused on three main types of exaggeration: flawed health recommendations to change their behavior based on the “findings”; a causal association when a merely correlational one existed; and the application of animal data to the health of humans.

A full 40% of press releases contained exaggerated advice, 33% drew causative conclusions from mere correlation, and 36%…

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