Alarming Headlines

There are plenty of alarming headlines out there that can easily work you into a lather if you let them.  One of the most recent headline that caught my eye read If you think you have Alzheimer's, you just might, studies suggest. 

The reason this article title is alarming is that it does two things:  First, it plays on the fear of Alzheimer's in the general population.  Most people don't know very much about Alzheimer's, the risks, symptoms or the rate of it in the population.  We all forget and the fear of Alzheimer's is touched on when we misplace our keys or forget an appointment.  What most people don't realize is that forgetting is normal.  An individual should be concerned not when they misplace their keys, but when they look at the keys and do not know what they are.

The second reason this title is alarming is that the title's author tries to lend credence to its fear tactic by tacking on the final two words of "studies suggest."  Which studies?  How many?  The article does cite the work of three researchers.  However, the studies cited appear to focus on participants who older than 65.  The individual story highlighted by the article is of a woman who is 60.  In the case of Alzheimer's, 5 years of age has a dramatic difference in diagnosis.  It is the difference between the more aggressive early on-set form of the disease and the less aggressive form of the disease most people think of when they think of Alzheimer's.  The rate of early on-set Alzheimer's is about 5% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

While it is good to bring attention to Alzheimer's, it dismays me that alarming headlines are such a common approach.


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