¿Morir para crecer?

STANFORD – Constantemente nos bombardean con información sobre los supuestos riesgos o efectos protectores de algún alimento, suplemento dietario, sustancia química, droga o actividad. En julio, por ejemplo, un artículo de The Annals of Internal Medicine informaba que la gente que trabaja por lo menos 11 horas por día tiene un 67% más de riesgo de sufrir un ataque al corazón o de morir de una enfermedad cardíaca que quienes trabajan 7-8 horas por día.

Sin embargo, el estudio no puede concluir que trabajar muchas horas cause enfermedades cardíacas. De hecho, uno de los malentendidos más comunes sobre los estudios científicos es la diferencia crítica entre correlación y causalidad. Trabajar muchas horas por día podría ser un mero indicador de un mayor riesgo de enfermedades cardíacas. Por ejemplo, podría ser que la gente muy estresada con una personalidad Tipo A que piensa que las hamburguesas con queso y panceta y las salsas a base de crema son alimentos esenciales, y que ya tiene un mayor riesgo a largo plazo de sufrir una enfermedad cardíaca, también tiende a trabajar más horas.

Los estudios que demuestran una asociación entre un factor y un efecto en la salud deberían considerarse simplemente como un resultado preliminar que conduzca a los investigadores hacia una investigación y un análisis más pormenorizados. Pero hasta los reguladores profesionales, que deberían tener mejor criterio, a veces se dejan llevar por este tipo de interpretación errónea, y reaccionan de manera exagerada.

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