One for the Bad Science file…

A while ago, I mentioned Ben Goldacre’s excellent Bad Science column, book and blog. When I heard this story on the radio this morning and then read the details, I immediately thought of Ben:

BBC NEWS | Health | ‘Visions link’ to coffee intake

People who drink too much coffee could start seeing ghosts or hearing strange voices, UK research has suggested.

People who drank more than seven cups of instant coffee a day were three times more likely to hallucinate than those who took just one, a study found.

The study itself isn’t too bad, I suppose. A couple of hundred students were asked about their caffeine intake, and about any tendency towards hallucinations. A correlation was apparently found between higher levels of caffeine consumption and seeing or hearing things. Hmmm. The actual quote makes it clear that there is no evidence that drinking more coffee causes hallucinations[1], and merely speculates that people under more stress are more likely to hallucinate, and perhaps people who are more stressed drink more coffee. Which is pretty much the exact opposite of what the first line of the BBC report says. I do have to wonder if BBC journalists can actually read. Or maybe they just need more coffee?

[1] Given the amount of industrial-strength espresso I drink, I’d be seeing and hearing things non-stop if that was the case…