90% of statistics on the Internet are made up...
January 3, 2019 12:50 AM   Subscribe

I am seeing a new article going around saying that the Journal of Pediatrics has a paper saying 80% of kids have a food allergy. Seems high to me...

Here's one article for instance. I can't find anything in the Journal of Pediatrics saying anything like this from the most recent issue or from last years' issues. I don't suppose someone here can point me at the paper they're talking about? I'd like to read it or at least the abstract for myself.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, there was a recent study in Pediatrics (not the Journal of Pediatrics) that placed the prevalence at 8% (actually 7.6% - abstract, article).

It's not hard to see a lazy journalist misreading the figure, misquoting the journal, and running with it to a doctor who, eager to get his own small allergy clinic some publicity, gives a quote over the phone without thinking or verifying.
BACKGROUND: Childhood food allergy (FA) is a life-threatening chronic condition that substantially impairs quality of life. This large, population-based survey estimates childhood FA prevalence and severity of all major allergenic foods. Detailed allergen-specific information was also collected regarding FA management and health care use.

METHODS: A survey was administered to US households between 2015 and 2016, obtaining parent-proxy responses for 38 408 children. Prevalence estimates were based on responses from NORC at the University of Chicago’s nationally representative, probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel (51% completion rate), which were augmented by nonprobability-based responses via calibration weighting to increase precision. Prevalence was estimated via weighted proportions. Multiple logistic regression models were used to evaluate FA predictors.

RESULTS: Overall, estimated current FA prevalence was 7.6% (95% confidence interval: 7.1%–8.1%) after excluding 4% of children whose parent-reported FA reaction history was inconsistent with immunoglobulin E–mediated FA. The most prevalent allergens were peanut (2.2%), milk (1.9%), shellfish (1.3%), and tree nut (1.2%). Among food-allergic children, 42.3% reported ≥1 severe FA and 39.9% reported multiple FA. Furthermore, 19.0% reported ≥1 FA-related emergency department visit in the previous year and 42.0% reported ≥1 lifetime FA-related emergency department visit, whereas 40.7% had a current epinephrine autoinjector prescription. Prevalence rates were higher among African American children and children with atopic comorbidities.

CONCLUSIONS: FA is a major public health concern, affecting ∼8% of US children. However, >11% of children were perceived as food-allergic, suggesting that the perceived disease burden may be greater than previously acknowledged.
posted by humuhumu at 2:28 AM on January 3 [8 favorites]

That AJC article says that the source is “Boston25news.com,” so I searched that site and found this article with the correct stat.

You’ll notice a correction at the bottom. So this article got it wrong, and the folks who picked up the syndicated article haven’t corrected theirs yet.

Good catch!
posted by bluedaisy at 2:33 AM on January 3 [16 favorites]

I wonder if a lazy journalist skimmed over this sentence
...42.3% reported ≥1 severe FA and 39.9% reported multiple FA...
and added the percentages together to get ~80% (ignoring/missing the fact that these were percentages of kids with FA, not percentages of all kids).

Or potentially misread/typoed:
FA is a major public health concern, affecting ∼8% of US children
into 80%.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:07 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Thanks for pointing this out and thanks to humuhumu for finding the article. I live in Georgia and the Atlanta Journal Constitution is the only halfway decent paper in the state. I commented on their article.
posted by mareli at 8:53 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

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