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Article : How to Know Whether to Believe a Health Study

le 26 août 2015

[The New York Times] Every day, new health care research findings are reported. Many of them suggest that if we do something — drink more coffee, take this drug, get that surgery or put in this policy — we will have better (or worse) health, or longer (or shorter) lives.

And every time you read such news, you are undoubtedly left asking: Should I believe this? Often the answer is no, but we may not know how to distinguish the research duds from the results we should heed.

Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for careful examination of studies by experts. Yet, if you’re not an expert, you can do a few simple things to become a more savvy consumer of research. First, if the study examined the effects of a therapy only on animals or in a test tube, we have very limited insight into how it will actually work in humans. You should take any claims about effects on people with more than a grain of salt. Next, for studies involving humans, ask yourself: What method did the researchers use? How similar am I to the people it examined?

Sure, there are many other important questions to ask about a study — for instance, did it examine harms as well as benefits? But just assessing the basis for what researchers call “causal claims” — X leads to or causes Y — and how similar you are to study subjects will go a long way toward unlocking its credibility and relevance to you.

Source The New York Times