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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Hi. This week, we’ve been looking at how health research gets into and is reported in the media. Every week, we have a case study that explores some key issues. And this week, it’s media reporting. We’ll be looking at two new stories from April and May 2015. Both looked at the impact of being dehydrated, not having enough liquid.

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds The first piece of research was reported in the UK daily newspaper The Telegraph. The headline read, “Not having enough water has the same effect as drink driving.” The newspaper quoted one of the authors as saying, “Drivers who are not properly hydrated make the same number of errors as people who are over the drink drive limit.” The researchers were looking at the effects of mild dehydration on how drivers performed during a boring and repetitive test. They researched the topic because most road traffic accidents are the results of driver error. The participants were 12 healthy adult males with an average age of 22. They were split into two groups. Both groups were tested twice with a two-hour simulated drive.

Skip to 1 minute and 25 seconds The test took place over two weeks. In week one, one group drank a standard amount of water, and the other group drank only 25% of that water. The following week, the groups were reversed. So each participant was tested after having consumed a standard amount and a reduced amount of water. One of the participants kept falling asleep, so the researchers didn’t include his results in the analysis. When they looked at the results for the other 11 men, the researchers found that when mildly dehydrated, the men made significantly more minor mistakes as the test went on. Minor mistakes were identified as late braking and lane drifting, which is crossing the line between road lanes.

Skip to 2 minutes and 17 seconds However, there was no difference in the number of major mistakes. At the end of the research report, the authors discussed its possible impact. During this discussion, another study from 2003 is mentioned. In this study, another group of 12 healthy young men undertook a different simulated test. The results of that test showed that when participants were tired and had consumed a little alcohol, their drinking performance– measured by the amount of lane drifting– was worse when it was compared with being tired or drinking alcohol alone. Now, the second news story was in the UK tabloid newspaper The Mirror. It reported the results of a survey of 300 UK general practitioners– community-based doctors– undertaken by the National Hydration Council.

Skip to 3 minutes and 18 seconds A GP who acts as an advisor to the Council commented on the number of people he saw who were feeling tired all the time. He went on to say, “There are, of course, several reasons that could be causing this. But a surprisingly common cause is that they are dehydrated. Many of my patients do not drink enough fluid each day and only believe they are dehydrated when they start to feel thirsty.” There’s very little information on the survey. But from the details provided, it was an online survey conducted over one week in March 2015 in 300 general practitioners. It included doctors from all regions of the UK. Numbers per region were between 10 and 41 doctors.

Skip to 4 minutes and 10 seconds It was conducted by a market research company. In summary, the reported results were that 20% of GP visits were due to tiredness and fatigue. Dehydration was thought to be the cause in 1 in 10 of these visits. Now, we were interested to see how this research got into the newspapers. The link in both cases was a press release sent to the media. We’ve included a link to both press releases. In both cases, there was a very strong similarity between the news reports and the press releases, including the comments on the research by Professor Maughan and Dr. Henderson.

Case study: hydration and health

Each week, we’ll be looking at a case study on an aspect of health research. For our first case study, we’re looking at two news reports of research into hydration (having enough fluid) and health.

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Making Sense of Health Evidence: The Informed Consumer

Cardiff University