Workplace Wellness Programs Don’t Work Well. Why Some Studies Show Otherwise.

The gold standard of medical research, the randomized controlled trial, has been taking a bit of a beating lately.

An entire issue of the journal Social Science and Medicine was recently devoted to it, with many articles pointing to shortcomings. Others have argued that randomized controlled trials often can’t address the questions that patients and physicians most want answered. I recently wrote aboutthe limitations of the method in studying effectiveness, which is what we care about in real-world situations.

But the randomized controlled trial remains a powerful tool. It’s still, perhaps, the best method for conducting explanatory research. In past articles, I have recounted numerous times when hypotheses from observational studies, those based solely on observations of particular groups, have failed to be confirmed by a controlled trial.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the randomized controlled trial is in combating what’s known as selection bias. That occurs when groups being studied (intervention and control) are already significantly different after they are “selected” to be in the intervention or not. One of the most elegant examples of why we need such trials came recently in an examination of employer-sponsored wellness programs.

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Shared from: New York Times