Recently, I published a catalog of techniques that are used to exaggerate the significance of scientific and statistical studies. As I see more examples of this abuse, I am going to post about them. The first addition to the catalog of deceptive statements made by scientists is a surprising one. Looking at the various methods used by people to distort the truth, I forgot the most obvious one. This is an example of straight up spin:
The study included 602 women ages 40 to 65. The participants reported whether they were sexually active and how important sex was in their lives. They also completed a test aimed at measuring women’s sexual functioning and health through a set of questions, such as whether they experienced pain or lubrication problems during sex.
At the start of the study, 354 (66.3 percent) of the women reported being sexually active. Four years later, 228 of those women remained sexually active, according to the study published today (Feb. 16) in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
“Popular culture tells us that as women age, they become less interested in sex, and they stop having sex,” said study researcher Dr. Holly Thomas, an internal medicine physician at the University of Pittsburgh. “But at least in the four years that we were examining, the vast majority of women who were sexually active continued to be sexually active.”
If I had to guess, I would say that the researcher who published this paper does sexual research targeted at older women and faces stiff competition for research dollars. In order to avoid saying that her research is not relevant because most women in the age range she is studying are no longer interested in sex, she claims that her study demonstrates that the “vast majority” of sexually active women remain sexually active. This is not how I would characterize a 35% decline in sexual activity over a four year period (354 – 228 / 354 = 35%). At least she didn’t say that the idea that women decrease their sexual activity as they get older is a “myth”.