Consider this a test post. Testing internet access from here (Hong Kong Airport- yay for free WiFi), WordPress access from here, and your nerves from everywhere.
Popular Science are going with “Cat Bites are Linked To Depression,” using that annoying sense of the term “linked to.” Basically, in this sense of the term, it means “not really linked to linked to.”
It’s like when we say “tattoos are linked to eating spinach and being a sailor man.” In other words, Popeye happened to have a tattoo.
Here’s how the cat-bite depression study shapes up:
After combing through the health records of 1.3 million people over 10 years, researchers found an unusual link between cat bites and depression. More than 41 percent of those who had presented to hospitals with cat bites were also treated for depression at some point. Furthermore, 86 percent of the people that had been both bitten and diagnosed with depression were women. If you are a woman who’s been bitten by a cat, there’s nearly a 50 percent chance that you will be diagnosed with depression at some point, the study suggests.
So far, so good. I mean, I’m guessing they’re controlling for the possibility that this is just a correlation. By, for example, controlling for baseline levels of depression among people who also meet the profile of cat ownership. After all, you’re more likely be bitten by a cat if you actually own a cat. You’d hardly go to press with such a study without establishing whether depressed individuals are more likely own cats first. Well…
…it may be that depressed individuals, especially women, are more likely to own cats…
So that’s a no then. Basically, being bitten has little to do with it. You could easily say that stroking a cat is “linked to” depression. Or feeding a cat. Or just looking at a cat.
Imagine what hugging every cat would mean. Except that’s crazy. You can’t hug every cat.
Okay, back to your lives…
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.