Observational Studies – does the language fit the evidence?
A webpage explaining observational studies and their advantage and disadvantages.Key Concepts addressed:
back to “Tips for Understanding Studies”
A health writer’s first attempt at expressing results from a new observational study read, “Frequent fish consumption was associated with a 50% reduction in the relative risk of dying from a heart attack.” Her editor’s reaction? Slash. Too wordy, too passive. The editor’s rewrite? “Women who ate fish five times a week cut their risk of dying later from a heart attack by half.” This edit seems fair enough – or is it? The change did streamline the message, but with a not-so-obvious, unintended cost to the meaning. Was the subjects’ fish consumption really responsible for their dying less frequently from heart attacks? The new wording suggests that’s the case, but the original study does not support a conclusion of cause and effect.