Autism and TV

Or, perhaps, autism and rainfall.

Children who live in areas with heavy rainfall could be more likely to develop autism, scientists claim.

Well, yes. They have indeed found a correlation here. But it\’s rather difficult to take them very seriously. This is a revision of an earlier set of papers which claimed that more TV watching led to autism. The link? They assumed that kids would watch more TV when it was raining, so they measured rainfall and autism and found the correlation.

That earlier study can be viewed here, here.

But now they\’re slightly stuck. They can see the correlation, but can\’t explain causation. No real theory at all.

6 thoughts on “Autism and TV”

  1. May not even be TV, might just be “less time playing outside with mates”, it affecting social skills and all.

    Could be lower light levels (seratonin), higher humidity, the sound of rainfall, umbrellas, interaction between pollution and rain, methane from rotting vegetation (higher in wet areas?) who knows.

    Sheep’s bladders have been known to prevent earthquakes, after all.

  2. Like all modern broad spectrum diseases it all in the diagnosis. Diagnosis varies from country to country, state to state, and even Doctor to Doctor.

    If Florida used the same diagnosis method as Washington State I am sure some researcher will link Autism to hurricanes and global warming. ;0

  3. It’s more complicated than that because less social kids are more attracted to TV, Computers etc. Which probably means that TV watching is a correlation.

    But maybe it’s about their parents. If parents are less social, outdoors types, maybe they don’t mind living somewhere with a lot more rain?

  4. … or it might just be pure coincidence.

    There is a well-known bit of epidemiological jiggery-pokery known as the data dredge. What you do is get a set of statistics for the incidence of some disease or condition, and then you correlate it against as many other data sets as you possibly can. Do this enough times and you will find one that violates whatever null hypothesis you have chosen. You then write up some flimsy paper, leak the result to the Daily Mail, and bask in the glow of reading: “Ingrown toenails linked with eating blancmange, scientists say.”

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