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出生月份会决定你生什么病

流言“哥伦比亚大学的研究发现,出生月份决定了你是否容易生病”,“7月份和10月份出生的孩子得哮喘的几率最大;3月份出生的人心脏最容易出问题;而11月份出生的人容易得支气管炎”。
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真相这项研究虽然在出生月份和疾病发生率之间得出了统计学上的相关性,但却不能证明出生时间“决定”了疾病发生的差异。

论证

研究者做了什么?

这是一项数据分析的研究。研究者们所做的事情并不是选取出某些受试者进行跟踪随访,而是直接利用了医院现有的数据系统。

研究中所用到的数据全部来自哥伦比亚大学医学中心(Columbia University Medical Center),在这里,就诊患者的疾病信息会按统一的编码格式记录在数据库中。研究者们选取了1900 至2000年出生且在该医院就诊的患者信息(样本量达到了174万9400人),并通过他们的医疗记录分析出生月份与疾病发生之间的关联。这些人在1985~2013年间在哥伦比亚医学中心接受过治疗,他们的平均年龄是38岁。分析发现,在不同的年份和性别之间,各月份出生人数的分布保持稳定。

在此之前,也有一些研究分析了特定疾病(例如哮喘)与出生月份的关系,而这项研究并不满足于此。这次的研究者们采取了“广撒网”的策略,他们共分析了1688种疾病,希望找出其中和出生月份有关的部分。

结果,他们在浩如烟海的数据中发现了55种疾病与出生月份存在统计学显著的相关性。这些疾病中既有哮喘之类的呼吸道疾病,也有高血压之类的心血管疾病,以及前列腺肿瘤、虫咬(Nonvenomous insect bite)之类更加杂七杂八的情况。在这55种“相关”的情况中,有16种是在既往发表研究中没有被提到过的。

研究能说明什么?

一百多万的庞大样本量可能会带来可信的感觉,不过值得注意的是,这项研究所能提供的仅仅是统计学分析上的现象而已。对于这些疾病和出生月份的联系,研究者并没有给出明确的原因解释,单凭这些数据也不能直接证明出生在某些月份就一定会增加患某些疾病的风险。

这项研究直接利用了既往的医疗记录数据,这样做对统计分析而言十分方便,但它也有明显的缺点,就是难以分析和控制众多潜在的影响因素。很多疾病的发生机制相当复杂,从遗传因素到个人生活习惯以及环境都在其中发挥着作用,而医院的医疗数据库并没有对这些因素的完整记录,我们也很难直接从医疗数据中分析出生月份和疾病到底是通过哪些因素联系起来的。即使出生月份真的关系到发病率,这样的相关性也只能算是一种初步的提示。这种信息或许可以提示流行病学研究者,启发他们发现影响疾病的新的风险因素,但是它对日常生活并没有直接的指导意义。而且,这些相关性是否真实存在,通过一项单一的研究也还无法确定。

除此之外,在这种“广撒网”、分析大量指标的研究中,也不能忘了对多重比较的问题留个心眼。好在这一次研究者没有忽略这个问题,他们也对显著性检验的标准进行了校正。

由于季节的更迭,在不同月份之间,确实有一些可能影响健康的因素会出现周期性的变化,例如空气中的花粉(潜在过敏原)浓度,以及光照强度(可影响维生素D水平)等等。此前也有研究发现了季节与人体一些特质的相关性(注:这些研究是在北半球进行的,南半球季节对应的时间要反过来),但对于出生月份和疾病之间的关系,我们目前所获得的信息还比较有限。而且,研究者也特别指出,与膳食和锻炼等因素相比,出生月份造成的疾病风险差异并不大,不值得过度担心[2]

总之,这项研究或许为流行病学研究者带来了一些新鲜的提示,但我们并不需要因为自己生在了“看起来不太好”的月份而感到忧虑。毕竟,我们现在还有很多机会来改善自己的健康,坚持良好的生活习惯才是更重要的事情。

参考资料:

  1. Birth Month Affects Lifetime Disease Risk: A Phenome-Wide Method
  2. http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2015/06/08/data-scientists-find-connections-between-birth-month-and-health/
  3. NHS:Does your birthday affect your disease risk?
内容来源:出生月份会影响你生什么病吗?芸香,果壳网科学人主题站


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最后更新:2015-06-12 17:58

分类: 传说轶事> 都市传说     标签:疾病/生物/医学/月份

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