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Stimulant medication for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


The findings of a systematic review of the effects of a commonly prescribed stimulant medication, methylphenidate, which you may know better as Ritalin, for children with ADHD received attention from the media with coverage that can best be described as ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’. The review reported improvements in teacher rated ADHD symptoms and parent reported quality of life following medication use. Medication use was not associated with an increase in serious life threatening harmful events but was associated with an increased risk of less serious side effects such as sleep problems and reduced appetite. The reviewers used the ‘gold-standard’ Cochrane review method and provided a plain language summary of the findings. With such well-defined findings, why did the media coverage vary so much? Read more…

Can coffee make you live longer?

Coffee and Chocolate

We hear a lot about drinking coffee and our health in the news.  The latest headlines are that “coffee drinkers live longer” and even “drinking coffee is now officially awesome for your health“! Some of the reporting has also commented on the amount of coffee involved: “five cups of coffee a day help you live longer“.  With previous reports claiming that similar amounts of coffee are bad for your health and even reduce life expectancy, what are the general public supposed to think? Read more…

Asking For Evidence: Does Homeopathy Work?


The controversial medical practice of homeopathy has made the news again recently, as the UK’s National Health Service is debating whether to “blacklist” it as a treatment.  Supporters of the practice have pointed to evidence that homeopathic treatments have performed “better than placebo” in some studies, while detractors point to its lack of plausible mechanisms for actually improving a patient’s health.  So what are the facts? Read more…

“Changes in humour an early sign of dementia”


It’s an oft-quoted expression that “laughter is the best medicine”, but recent headlines suggested that a dark sense of humour, or more specifically a change towards a darker sense of humour, might be one early indicator of a specific type of dementia. Research identifying risk factors or potential early indicators of dementia often features in the media, and this latest study was no different in attracting a great deal of coverage. Not only was the research itself of interest, but it serves as a careful reminder that small differences in how such findings are reported can have important implications for what we take from it. Read more…

Why are rates of autism rising?


A survey carried out in the U.S. has reported an increase in rates of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from 1 in 80 births in 2011-2013 (1.25%) to 1 in 45 (2.24%) in 2014.  While many of the headlines referred to ‘autism doubling’ most of the reporting quickly pointed out that the increase does not reflect an epidemic but a change in the way autism symptoms are assessed. Read more…

The refugee crisis: Debunking the myths


This article was co-authored by Nasar Meer and Daniela Sime.

Recent weeks have seen a refugee crisis unfold in Europe. Around four million Syrians have now fled their country. Over one million Somalians and more than two and a half million Afghans have also become refugees in recent years. The vast majority have fled to neighboring countries, which is consistent with a wider pattern where 86% of the world’s refugees reside in non-western countries. Since the start of this year a relatively small proportion (about 320,000) have sought refuge in Europe, especially through unsafe travel across the Mediterranean Sea with at least 2500 fatalities this summer. These events have dominated the UK media and in response a number of charities, organisations and citizens have mobilised to offer support, and collections of money and provisions are taking place all over the country, including in Scotland. The UK government too has modified its initial position of not accepting Syrian refugees, and now promises to take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years. Some commentators have worried however that a ‘refugee influx’ or ‘swarm’, as the Prime Minister recently described refugees, would affect the UK in negative ways. To help understand the key issues, this blog clears up some prevailing myths. Read more…

One month left to Rewrite the Headlines

RWtH - Logo 2

In primary schools and universities across Scotland, pupils and students are busy preparing their entries for our Rewrite the Headlines competition. The competition aims to engage young people with how research is discussed in the media, and to encourage them to develop a critical approach to this (not just in questioning the headlines, but assessing the research behind the stories too). Entries close on 30 November 2015, so there’s still time to get in involved with some great prizes on offer. Read more…

Does red meat cause cancer?


This week, the Word Health Organization (WHO) released a report ranking processed meat as “group 1: carcinogen to humans” and red meat in general as “group 2A: probably carcinogenic to humans”. Every media outlet in the world made headlines with this press release. At the one extreme, vegetarians around the world felt redeemed, and as you might expect at the other side of the spectrum, the meat industry reacted with skepticism. Read more…

Does a tattoo mark you out as an aggressive rebel?


“People with tattoos are more likely to be aggressive” suggested a recent headline in the Telegraph, with similar reports appearing in the Guardian, Daily Mail and the Independent among others. With about 1 in 5 adults in the UK sporting a tattoo, it’s certainly interesting to explore what factors might predict the likelihood of getting one versus not. So let’s get under the skin of the recent headlines. Read more…


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