Headlines: more perilous than pills?BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7124.82 (Published 03 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:82
- Kamran Abbasi, editorial registrar
Kamran Abbasi shows how headlines on medical controversies can mislead and exaggerate
Assessing risk has become hazardous. While newspapers happily report the latest research findings, the facts are often obscured by editors' hunger for a dramatic story. To this end, headlines can both mislead and exaggerate, especially as many readers struggle to venture beyond the first line of an article. What's more, the level of danger you feel may depend on the newspaper you are reading.
In December 1997 the BMJ published a case-control study looking at the influence of oral contraceptives on the risk of ischaemic stroke in women aged 16 to 44. The researchers found that for women taking oral contraceptives the adjusted odds ratio for ischaemic stroke was 2.9, or that these women were 2.9 times more likely to have an ischaemic stroke than women not taking oral contraceptives …