Monday, June 20, 2005

Health scare


An interesting Guardian article by Ben Goldacre about the way health scare stories are reported. He argues that it's nonsense to say that such-and-such increases your risk of dying by x%, if you don't know what the baseline figure is. For example, saying ibuprofen increases your risk of a heart attack by 50% may be true, but we're talking one extra person in every 1005 people, which is much less scary.

Goldacre's article merely reinforces what I already believe about scare stories - that they're there to sell papers. This doesn't mean that the threat isn't real; just that one always needs to read behind the figures, and maintain a sense of perspective.

(Of course, health scare stories do form part of the evidence I use when talking about reasons for converting to vegetarianism. Luckily, they're not the only thing I rely on.)


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