Epidemiology

Epidemiology Makes Astrology Look Respectable

Sitting all day will kill you. Well, maybe not.

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Astrology
indianexpress

All right, the headline is harsh, but scanning the epidemiological literature one can generally find that some researcher somewhere has found a deleterious outcome associated with nearly any human activity or nearly any trace exposure to some substance or other.

Earlier this year, a review article in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that among other bad outcomes found in a bunch of mostly case-control studies that sitting all day at a desk job increased your risk of dying with a hazard ratio of 1.22 and 95 percent confidence interval of 1.090 to 1.410. Time to get a desk with an attached treadmill. Well, maybe not.

Last week, a new study in the International Journal of Epidemiology that took into account the sitting habits of a cohort of British subjects for 16 years reported:

Sitting time was not associated with all-cause mortality risk. The results of this study suggest that policy makers and clinicians should be cautious about placing emphasis on sitting behaviour as a risk factor for mortality that is distinct from the effect of physical activity.

As I have reported elsewhere:

It is not easy to sort actual risk factors from the statistical background noise of confounders and biases. "With epidemiology you can tell a little thing from a big thing. What's very hard to do is to tell a little thing from nothing at all," said Michael Thun, an American Cancer Society epidemiologist in 1995. Former Boston University epidemiologist Samuel Shapiro agrees: "In adequately designed studies we can be reasonably confident about big relative risks, sometimes; we can be only guardedly confident about relative risks estimates of the order of 2.0, occasionally; we can hardly ever be confident about estimates of less than 2.0, and when estimates are much below 2.0, we are simply out of business. Epidemiologists have only primitive tools, which for small relative risks are too crude to enable us to distinguish between bias, confounding and causation." …

"Some may argue that it is of public health importance to identify and evaluate possible causal implications of small relative risks because for common diseases these can translate into large absolute risks," writes Shapiro. But as he cautions his colleagues, "Unfortunately, however, not all questions are answerable even if we desperately want answers, and public health importance does not equate with scientific validity."

The benefits of exercise are pretty well established and we (and by "we" I do include "me" too) should all move around a bit more. But being chained to your desk is not all that likely to send you to an early grave.

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  1. Calling Michael Savage to the courtesy mic, Michael Savage….please weigh in on this…

  2. Remember years ago when someone quoted that sitting study to me and I thought it sounded like the dumbest thing I had ever heard. The bloom was off the rose at that point, and I just stopped ignoring salacious, click-generating headlines like that.

    1. You mean you started ignoring salacious, click-generating headlines like that. Or did you really stop ignoring them?

      1. Its that one weird trick that always gets him.

        1. And you won’t believe what happens next.

    2. I wonder how much money was wasted on stand up desks at my work place alone.

      1. Stand up desks do have benefits. They help keep some people awake, and if someone has terrible chair posture it can do wonders for the back.

        1. My back kills me if I stand for very long at all.

          1. It doesn’t help everyone. I’d be in pretty poor condition and demanding accommodations if they switched my desk with a stand up, but my coworker across the hall went from back pain on the drive home every day to being just fine by getting one. Depends on what problems you’re having and when and how you use it.

          2. Need good shoes for it.

            Was always a problem in the Navy – with rare exceptions watchstanders are not allowed to sit. To the point that the Navy will pay to have seats *cut out* of ships that they commissioned the design of. I man, if you don’t want the seat, why did you approve their installation on the plans in the first place?

            Can be a bitch on a 12 hour watch and even 4 is no picnic in standard issue boots.

  3. It is not easy to sort actual risk factors from the statistical background noise of confounders and biases.

    No!

    Former Boston University epidemiologist Samuel Shapiro: “Epidemiologists have only primitive tools, which for small relative risks are too crude to enable us to distinguish between bias, confounding and causation.”

    But does that stop you from making these wild and hysterical warnings about the risks behind being alive and… doing stuff?

    NO! Of course not! A person has to make a living, doesn’t he? And, what more lucrative way of making a living than scaring the shit out of ordinary folks who do not understand statistics and the law of big numbers?

  4. I hate to break it to you Ron, but the mortality rate of people who sit at the office all day is a shocking 100%. Are you trying to tell me there’s no correlation there?

    1. Yes Huge,living is the number oe cause of death.Think I’ll have a beer or two,and a steak,maybe a cigar?

    2. Life is a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% mortality rate.

  5. Why don’t they just get a consensus and then the debate could be over ?

    Problem solved.

    1. +1 Fucking Love Science

      1. Tru-fact

        They misspelled their name when they set up the facebook page.

        It was supposed to be …

        I love fucking science up

  6. The fundamental problem with epidemiology is that one can’t ethically do truly controlled experiments. So digging signal out of the noise becomes a major challenge and is unavoidably rife with error.

    1. So what you’re saying is that I need to get rich enough to buy an island outside of a government, then dedicate it to running all the trials that aren’t legally allowed elsewhere?

      1. You can rent my slave-children after they are done polishing my monocles and digging coal.

      2. I think what he’s saying is that the government needs to have fewer restrictions so they can get away with doing these experiments . . . or wait, they already do.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Project_SHAD

        Well, I guess they just need more money so they can do more and make everything better for everyone by using the people on welfare – they owe society, right?

    2. Old Man With Candy|10.20.15 @ 11:40AM|#
      “The fundamental problem with epidemiology is that one can’t ethically do truly controlled experiments. So digging signal out of the noise becomes a major challenge and is unavoidably rife with error.”

      Schumpeter was teaching in Vienna when the commies took over the government in Russia. He commented that now the economists would have a real test of their theories.
      He was right.

      1. I sat in on a hilarious conference call a couple years ago. I was working with a biology prof who was heavily Asperger, so very smart and no social skills. We were talking about our research with a toxicology group working for a large chemical company in Germany. We had been able to show a biological effect of a particular chemical exposure using in vitro methods, but they kept poking us about the connection to actual human health. The prof eventually got frustrated and said, “Look, we can’t put 10,000 people on one island, 10,000 people on another island, then expose one of the groups to these chemicals and follow the outcome over several generations. This isn’t the Third Reich!”

        Dead silence on the other end of the phone. I was trying hard not to laugh out loud, thinking of the Fawlty Towers line, “DON’T MENTION THE WAR!”

        1. Actually – I imagine it was the blatant comparison to the Nazis that finally got those guy’s attention.

        2. “Look, we can’t put 10,000 people on one island, 10,000 people on another island, then expose one of the groups to these chemicals and follow the outcome over several generations. This isn’t the Third Reich!”

          “So, what you’re saying is, we can’t really prove anything, correct?”

          “Pretty much.”

          1. When it comes to epidemiology, yeah, that’s pretty much it indeed.

        3. It sounds like the German company was angling pretty hard to provide your test group. Like the benzene data that came out of refineries.

        4. It sounds like the German company was angling pretty hard to provide your test group. Like the benzene data that came out of refineries.

          1. They were angling pretty hard to prevent us from linking their products to the in vitro data, with the usual grant-bait implied ties to public health.

  7. Exercise correlates with a more optimistic disposition, which leads to engaging in high-risk behaviors like leaving the house and interacting with other people. So binging that entire season of Fargo may just save your life.

  8. ….one can generally find that some researcher somewhere has found a deleterious outcome associated with nearly any human activity

    What about receiving blow jobs? Because I want to know. What about giving blow jobs? Because Epi wants to know.

    1. Don’t do it while flying a plane?

      1. Or while driving a switchbacky mountain road (an unfortunate couple won a Darwin Award from doing this)?

  9. All men must die.
    All men must sit.

    1. Valar dochairis?

      1. Perfect

    2. We will not die.
      We will not sit.

  10. It strikes me that part of the problem is that no one ever gets rewarded in epidemiology for a negative finding.

  11. Sitting at a desk harshes my Scorpionic powers.

  12. I bought brand new BMW by working ONline work. Six month ago i hear from my friend that she is working some online job and making more then 98$/hr i can’t beleive. But when i start this job i have to beleived her
    Now i am also making 98$/hr if you want to try just check this out

    ————– http://www.HomeJobs90.Com

  13. The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
    ——————–
    Online Horoscope

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