Daily Quotes

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. “Don't let yesterday take up too much of today.” “You learn more from failure than from success. “If you are working on something that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed.


Careful! Health-related news headlines might be misleading.

Ever read a headline that captures your eye but then found the story itself disappointing? Or worse, did you believe that the dramatic headline was entirely misleading? Yeah, me too.

The impact of a well-crafted headline can be significant. We often skim the headlines, then decide whether or not to read on.

Previously, it was written on how media coverage of drug research might mislead or confuse. Here I’m concentrating on health headlines, which can be deceiving. Watch for these hazards.

Exaggerated study results

Humans were studied? If a study demonstrates that medicine is both safe and effective for a serious disease, this is significant news. However, what if all study subjects were mice? By omitting this critical fact from the headline, the study's significance is exaggerated.

There is far too much drama. Headlines on medical research sometimes use dramatic adjectives such as "breakthrough" or "groundbreaking." True breakthroughs, on the other hand, are exceedingly rare. That is the nature of science: information accumulates slowly, with each discovery building on the previous one.

Excessive. When presenting the conclusions of a study, headlines frequently take a leap of faith. For instance, if researchers discover a new form of blood cell that rises in number as a disease progresses, they may speculate that reducing those cells could help control the sickness. The headline screams, "Researchers uncover a new way to treatment!" While it may happen in the future (see below), it is an exaggeration given that the study was not even evaluating treatment.

Ignoring the most critical outcome. Rather than evaluating how a medication impacts, say, heart disease, research may examine how it affects a risk factor for the condition. Cholesterol is an excellent example. While it is beneficial if a medicine decreases cholesterol, it is far more beneficial if it also lowers the rate of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Headlines frequently fail to convey the critical distinction between a "proxy measure" (such as a risk factor) and the primary outcome (such as rates of death).

Erroneous logic

A connection to illness is not synonymous with a cause of illness. It is critical to distinguish between "causation" and "association." Observational studies can establish a connection (association) between two health problems, such as a connection between a symptom (such as a headache) and an illness (like stomach ulcers). However, this does not imply that one produced the other. Consider observational research in which thousands of headache sufferers were compared against thousands of headache-free individuals. If a greater proportion of those with frequent headaches also had stomach ulcers, the headline could boldly proclaim, "Headaches cause ulcers!" A more likely reason is that individuals who experience frequent headaches are taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or similar medications, which are known to induce ulcers.

Hazy on critical details

Someday isn't today. New medication or device studies may be lauded as life-changing for patients or practice-changing for physicians. Yet a closer examination frequently finds that the breakthrough medication is years away from approval — or may never be approved at all.

This is an ongoing project. Many headlines omit the word "preliminary." Preliminary insights are provided by studies presented at medical conferences but not yet published in a peer-reviewed medical publication. While this research appears to be promising at the time, it may prove to be a scientific dead end.
Is this a report, a press release, or an advertisement? It's difficult to discern from some headlines. Press releases and ads frequently exaggerate the positive aspects of new discoveries or therapies. We anticipate more balanced news coverage.

Numerous headlines for a single article

Here's an excellent example of exaggerated headlines. A report published in 2021 described the development of a pacemaker that cures faulty cardiac rhythms temporarily and then dissolves. Amazing, isn't it? For individuals who require a pacemaker on a temporary basis, a dissolving pacemaker may allow them to avoid undergoing a surgical operation to remove it once it is no longer required.

Three headlines accompanying this research stated the following:

However, that evaporating pacemaker has never been tested on actual beings - a critical fact! The researchers tested the dissolving pacemaker using open-heart surgery on rats and dogs, as well as laboratory trials on heart tissue taken from mice, rabbits, and deceased humans.

The first title highlights the danger of overstating preliminary study findings: while a dissolving pacemaker may become routine in humans in the future, it is unlikely to be "coming soon." And when a headline states "dissolves harmlessly in body," we might fairly assume it refers to a living human being. Not so.

Why are we always subjected to deceptive headlines? A significant reason is that headlines generate the necessary attention, clicks, leads, subscriptions, and influence for media websites. Certain writers and editors embrace hype, understanding that it garners more attention. Others may lack the necessary training to read and present medical news with sufficient care.

In a world rife with deceptive health news headlines, here's the advice: exercise caution. Before you buy in, consider the source and look beyond the headline. Additionally, if your preferred news source frequently publishes false headlines, consider changing channels or eliminating that news source from your list.

Thanks for reading.

Misleading health headlines



No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
© MÉLÒDÝ JACÒB • Theme by Maira G.