Mark Zweig and Emily DeVoto authored a thoughtful piece on how journalists may imply cause-and-effect in reporting on research, when the study design didn’t really establish cause-and-effect. Examples:
Eating fish may help preserve eyesight in older people.
The authors calculated that participants who did 75 minutes a day of activities lowered their risk of dying by 30%…
Overall, those who drank [coffee] were 22 percent less likely to have diabetes, with decaf drinkers reaping somewhat greater benefit
Women who ate fish 5 times a week cut their risk of dying later from a heart attack by half…
Higher aspirin dose seems to stave off some cancers The strongest effect was for colon cancer.
Drugs that suppress acids may make fractures more likely Taking proton pump inhibitors for more than a year increased the likelihood of a hip fracture by 44 percent.
They urge health care journalists to be mindful of when cause-and-effect language is warranted by the study design and when it is not.