Hamish Champ: Do we really need so many scientific surveys?*

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Research

Barely a week goes by without the findings of some survey telling us what we can and can't consume if we want to live long and healthy lives and that...

Barely a week goes by without the findings of some survey telling us what we can and can't consume if we want to live long and healthy lives and that we will go to our graves rather earlier than we'd like unless we change our ways.

The impact of such continual bombardment is often diametrically opposed to that intended. We end up ignoring virtually everything.

The latest data to catch my eye concerned a seven-year long study into the effects on people living in rural communities of having clusters of licensed premises nearby. According to a report I read at the weekend, lots of country pubs in the vicinity could be sending people in such communities to the brink of suicide.

It seemed rather far-fetched to me. If anything, the closure​ of village boozers would surely be the primary cause for depression, not the other way round.

But according to a weekend newspaper researchers had found this indeed to be the case.

It was only when one got past the middle of the story that one's suspicions were raised. Two of the researchers were American. Hmm. Then it transpired that the research revolved around rural communities not in Cumbria or Cornwall, but California.

Worse still, while the analysis of the data was "newly published", the research itself had been conducted between 1995 and 2000.

So nine years old then. Not exactly bang up to date, I'd posit. And not about the UK anyway. What was the point of scaring us all with that then, I wonder?

This is not a new phenomenon. As a kid my parents would oft read aloud from the newspaper the latest medical findings and advice on what to eat and drink with the sort of scepticism they'd normally reserve for pronouncements from the Flat Earth Society. This week, red wine's bad for you. Next week it'll be good for you. And so on.

I think it would be a good idea to put a cap on the number of research papers that urge us to change the way we live by drinking/eating less/more of a certain thing. It would mean when something truly earth-shattering came out we'd sit up and take notice, rather than go: "What? Another bloody survey? No thanks."

Of course scientific research is vital to the long-term well-being of the world and his wife. But things do seem to be getting out of hand somewhat.

After all, common sense tells you that something like smoking is probably going to be bad for you, period, but that drunk in moderation beer, cider, wine, whisky, etc, won't be.

True, in some people common sense is a rare thing. Such individuals should be treated verrry​ carefully, with perhaps their right to vote - or indeed breed - being removed if they don't come up to scratch.

In the meantime, if you start to read a sentence which begins with the words "Latest research reveals that…" perhaps you should move on to another story. Even if the sentence in question was written by yours truly. Hey, I've still got a job to do…

(*'apologies' to the Daily Mail​ for ripping off that newspaper's cop-out headline style)

Related topics: Legislation

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