An article in today’s Daily Telegraph makes reference to a study that was carried out in order to identify a link between violence in teenagers and their drinking of fizzy drinks.
Almost 2,000 14 to 18-year-olds from 20 schools in Boston were asked how many cans of non-diet fizzy drink they had consumed over the past week and if they had been violent towards a peer, sibling or partner over the previous year.
From this sample and these questions, the article concludes that fizzy drinks addicts* were more likely to be violent to their peers [58 per cent for addicts versus 35 per cent for non-addicts], siblings [43% vs 25%] or partners [27% vs 15%]. As such, the newspaper opted for the headline ‘Fizzy drinks make teenagers violent’. However, there is no evidence that this is the case; the headline could equally have been ‘Violence makes teenagers consume fizzy drinks’, although my preference would be the one used as the title for this entry.
I understand that newspapers need to generate money, and catchy headlines are a significant way of aiding this, but I become frustrated by how misleading they can be. Is it any wonder that students respond like this in their exam**, when the world is full of so much conflicting information?
Thanks to David Spiegelhalter for bringing this article to my attention.
* An addict was classed as someone drinking more than fourteen fizzy drinks per week (two per day), whereas a non-addict as someone drinking a maximum of one can a week [quite what those in the middle are classed as, I am not sure].
** For information, the student actually achieved a grade C in their exam.