Damned lies and statistics

This article on CNN is a prime example of what’s wrong with the way the media covers obesity. The statistics are specious on several levels. First, it appears that they are counting all instances of diseases that are sometimes related to obesity. So if 10 people have diabetes, and five of them are fat, they’re counting all ten. Also, they’re talking about public health dollars, which are used in large part by an older segment of the population. Many diseases that are “linked” with obesity are more prevalent as you get older–weight notwithstanding. Finally, they are talking about 5% of the taxpayers’ healthcare dollars, yet they say 64% of the population is overweight. 5% to care for 64%? Sounds like a good deal to me.

The thing to remember is that this article is absolutely typical of the pseudoscience rampant in the media. For more, check the comments on this article at BFB.

2 Responses to Damned lies and statistics

  1. Brian says:

    The AP is just reporting what the CDC told them. Which, indeed, is what is wrong with the way the media covers “obesity”, but they weren’t the people or originated the “data”. We have the US Government to blame for that.

  2. Cat says:

    I’ll certainly give you that–I posted this more as an example of typical news coverage.

    RTI did the actual study, but I can’t find the raw numbers on their website (it’s probably there, I just don’t have time to look at the moment). Digging around at RTI could be interesting.