Re: poly: Why we die?

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Mon Jun 29 1998 - 12:55:19 PDT

Rich Schroeppel writes:
>The study about the causes of death contains enough things
>that contradict "well-known" health information that I am
>wary of accepting it as accurate: At the minimum, the authors
>and I must differ on vocabulary.

What contradictions do you have in mind? (I don't see them.)

>[If taken at face value, it implies that any other study
>about causes-of-death must *exactly* match control & target
>populations for wealth, to avoid swamping the more subtle
>effect being studied.]

It depends on the strength of the effect of interest.
Random clinical trials, which seek relatively strong effects,
can typically implicitly control for a wide range of
not-too-strong effects such as wealth. When looking for
weaker effects, researchers *have* regularly controlled for

>The various factors studied are mostly strongly correlated,
>(wealth & age being an obvious example), and even defining
>single variable effects is tricky.

I think you will find that these researchers are well aware
of these issues, and have done a decent job addressing them.

>I imagine that asking people at random "How are you?" would
>be a fairly good predictor for longevity, but I don't pretend
>that the replies affect health.

No, you probably think that health effects replies. The
literature in this area has given great attention to the
possibility that health causes wealth, and mostly found this
isn't a big effect.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627
Received on Mon Jun 29 20:16:36 1998

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