Posted by: Tony Carson | 5 September, 2007

Health news — too much information

Are we getting too much health information?

The steady drip-feed of health news has the feel of Chinese torture. Every day something surfaces that we instinctively add to our data bank, which these days is becoming an over-stocked pharmacy for paranoia.

While each tid bit of health ‘news’ may be benign in itself, added together they can’t help but make us concerned for our health, if not flat-out fearful.

Take today’s offering, for instance. Early rising no good for the heart: study. What are we to make of that?

“Rising early to go to work or exercise might not be beneficial to health, but rather a risk for vascular diseases,” said an abstract of the study.

But wait. Before you change your habits — like getting up to go to work or work out — look at the caveat: the study also noted that early risers were usually older. So how useful and accurate is the information and how responsible is it to publish something that apparently has no context? What should the study actually mean to us and how should it impact on our lifestyles?

It is as if we need a clearing house for health news, a place where responsible, knowledge people filter through the day’s offerings to determine if a finding passes some litmus test of relevance.

It is understandable why researchers want to get their information out — their research grants may depend on it, among other things — but is it enough that they just sensitize the public to a potential problem?

Ideally, health news should be a call to action for people who care about their health. In this case, that action would be to turn off the alarm. Is that what this study is telling us?

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