Monday, February 25, 2008

Curiosity Killed...

This article is hilarious if only because it's a great example of conflating correlation with causation.

Have you ever thought how lucky you are to have your cat with you? According to a controversial study, presented at the American Stroke Association in New Orleans on Thursday, cats reduce the risks for their owners to have a heart attack and protect them from other cardiovascular diseases.

Without the original study in front of me, I can't really analyze the statistics the authors used to conclude that cat ownership reduces the risk of heart attacks. The proposed "mechanism" for this is that cat ownership--a source of affection and companionship--reduces stress levels. Less stress means fewer heart attacks. Well, okay. That might be the case. Maybe. Heart attacks are occasionally triggered during high stress situations or periods of exertion.

However, the idea that having a cat around--and the study says nothing about man's best friend, the dog--will improve your health sounds like shoddy scholarship. I'm sure you could find a similar link between tea, enjoyment of classical music or a love of quiet meditation, or even just a tendency to take naps. Anything that helps you chill out would offer similar benefits, assuming that stress was a primary cause of heart attacks (which is isn't).

Cat ownership is pretty prevalent. You might as well connect having eaten tomato sauce to cancer or driving a car to catching the flu.

1 comment:

Cobalt said...

it is can be peer-review tiemz, plz?