The University of Tetleys says we’re ill for nearly half our lives; I say that’s an absurdi-tea

Scanning the Daily Mail, as obligated by my studies for the year, not for any reading pleasure, I came across the following article:

This dubious headline can be credited to the Daily Mail (06/11/15)
This dubious headline can be credited to the Daily Mail (06/11/15)

The Mail reports: “A study has found that British adults spend half their lives suffering from some sort of cold, injury or ailment,” according to: “scientists.” More on these so-called scientists later.

How did these scientists come to their conclusions? By examining the medical records of 2,000 people, they discovered the average person feels fit and healthy on 171 days of the year.

Extrapolated out, those 171 days a year becomes 34 years a lifetime. Unfortunately the conclusion is hard to believe as that’s all we get given for a methodology.

  • How did they define when someone was fit and healthy?
  • Did those with long-term conditions (e.g. asthma, arthritis) get to call their good days ‘fit and healthy’ or were they always deemed unhealthy?
  • Who were the 2,000 people?
  • Did they represent a fair cross section of society?
  • Did the authors walk into the local day centre looking for bored pensioners and consequentially produce really biased results?

We don’t know the answers to any of the above.

Why don’t we know? Well, it’s partly because this ‘study’ wasn’t published in any reputable journal. Instead it was published on page six of the Daily Mail.

The biggest reason we don’t know how this study was done was because it wasn’t a study by actual scientists. It was work done by Tetley Tea (the purveyors of teabags you use when there’s no other options), most likely for PR purposes.

The online version of the article is even more blatantly PR, saying: “hot drinks and cosy nights in as the things that make enduring the colder months worthwhile.” Reporting that, a tea company has said ‘hot drinks make winter bearable’ is as close to a free advert as you can get.

To call this study science is frankly insulting.

Science is a method used to find what truly exists, definitely works and benefits mankind. By calling a PR fluff piece for Tetley Tea ‘science’, the Daily Mail trades sciences’ reputation in exchange for a catchy headline that is probably not true. This is bad for science and bad for journalism, and frankly the Mail should have more self-respect than to publish free publicity pieces.

PS: For additional reading, here’s some previous occasions when dubious news stories about Tetley Tea crept onto the Mail’s website:

How to reuse teabags (05/05/15)

Things you think are British but aren’t (23/04/15)


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