Gelman seems flabbergasted at what he sees as a hyperbolic claim resulting from a poor design filtered through poor journalism. I’m surprised at the surprise. As one commentator “Mark” points out at Gelman’s blog,
Andrew, this is my area of research (public health), and I don’t think you’re missing anything, and I’m not the least bit surprised that it resulted in big headlines in the NYT. This happens ALL THE TIME. Recall the recent results from Harvard regarding red meat and cancer: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/health/research/red-meat-linked-to-cancer-and-heart-disease.html?_r=1. OK, this one wasn’t exactly front page in NYT, but still they were hyping another similarly hopelessly flawed study. And, it’s not too hard to find many more examples in the NYT, some of which certainly made the front page. See John Iaonnidis.
Another commentator “Jonathan” suggests, “Anyone know of any studies that look at impacts of new studies on behavior changes. It would also be interesting the difference before and after the introduction of the internet. If that makes sense.” I second that–can we get data on gym memberships and match it to NYT circulation??