Mourir de l’envie de grandir ?

STANFORD – Nous sommes constamment bombardés d’informations sur les risques présumés ou les effets bénéfiques de tel ou tel aliment, complément alimentaire, produit chimique, médicament, ou activité particulière. Un article paru dans The Annals of Internal Medicine, en juillet dernier, a par exemple rapporté que les personnes travaillant au moins 11 heures par jour étaient exposées à un risque 67% plus élevé d’attaque cardiaque, ou de décès des suites d’une maladie cardiaque, que les personnes travaillant 7 à 8 heures par jour.

Rien dans cette étude ne permet pourtant de soutenir que de longues heures de travail provoquent  effectivement la maladie cardiaque. En effet, l’un des malentendus les plus courants s’agissant des études scientifiques réside dans la différence essentielle entre corrélation et causalité. De longues journées de travail pourraient n’être qu’un indicateur de risque plus élevé de maladie cardiaque. Par exemple, il se pourrait simplement que des personnes extrêmement stressées, ayant une personnalité de type A, estimant que les cheeseburgers au bacon et les sauces à la crème constituent des aliments de base, et d’ores et déjà exposées à un risque plus élevé de maladie cardiaque sur le long terme, aient également tendance à travailler plus longtemps.

Les études qui révèlent un lien entre un facteur particulier et un effet sur la santé ne devraient être considérées que comme des résultats préliminaires destinés à orienter les chercheurs vers des recherches et des analyses plus approfondies. Pourtant, même les organismes professionnels de régulation, censés en être conscients, s’égarent parfois dans ce genre de malentendu et réagissent de manière excessive.

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