‘’Horns’ are growing on young people’s skulls. Phone use is to blame, research suggests,’ was the recent title of an article published by the Washington Post. A shocking story which obviously went viral quickly on the internet… and yet, it’s highly inaccurate.
It all started when a scientific study was published in February 2018 in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports. This study claimed that some kind of bony protrusions are forming on the back of the skull, particularly in people between the ages of 18 and 30 years old. To explain this, researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, put this hypothesis forward. These protrusions are said to be due to having bad posture associated with ‘prolonged use of smartphones and other handheld devices’ such as tablets.
‘A number of considerable flaws’
The study was relayed on not one, not two, but several media sources and social media sites… in which, during the process, the term ‘bone protrusions’ turned into ‘horns’ in the reports. However, this has proved to be inaccurate.
‘The study has a number of considerable flaws,’ stated William Harcourt-Smith to Business Insider.
Already, it is important to note that these protrusions may in fact be real, but they have been around for a while: they are benign and are rather common in older people. But during their study, scientists seemed to focus on quite a specific sample of people: they analyzed the health-related data of 1,200 chiropractic patients. In other words, a non-random sample that as a result, is not representative of the population.
That being said, the hypothesis they put forward was immediately qualified by the researchers.
They said they ‘have not ever drawn direct links between the presence of EEOPs (these protrusions) and mobile technology use,’ the main author David Shahar stated.
‘We have suggested that the cause appears to be a mechanical one,’ and therefore could be due to poor posture – constantly hunching your neck and shoulders forward. A position that is ‘often associated with the use of mobile technologies.’
But as well as having a literary significance, this study also has a ‘flaw’ that is a lot more problematic, as Business Insider reveals. The main author of this study, David Shahar, is also said to own a company that sells products, particularly pillows, that are supposed to help correct your poor posture… for the modest sum of 195 dollars. A detail that the researcher failed to report in the ‘competing interests’ section of his study.
In the world of scientific literature, the journal Nature Research that publishes Scientific Reports still remains a benchmark.
‘We are examining the problems that this publication could cause, and we will take steps if they prove necessary,’ declared a spokesperson.
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