Coffee drinkers, rejoice. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests drinking coffee may help you live longer. Among the 400,000 people who participated in the study, coffee drinkers who consumed six or more cups a day had a significantly decreased risk of dying due to heart and respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, and injury and accidents. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee drinkers benefit.
The reason behind this relationship is unclear, especially because there may be unknown variables associated with drinking coffee. For example, coffee drinkers may be less likely to die due to injury or accidents, but is that due to coffee or some “confounding” variable still unidentified? Furthermore, it may be difficult to determine a causal relationship. Does drinking coffee lead to good health, or do already healthy people drink coffee more than unhealthy people do? There are no answers yet.
Issues of confounding variables and causation arise in CHI’s study of Colorado’s uninsured, based on the 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS). The data paint a compelling portrait of the estimated 829,000 uninsured Coloradans.
In Colorado, the highest rates of uninsurance are found in the age group of between 19 and 34; the lowest income group – from zero up to the federal poverty level; and among Hispanics. Many of the uninsured have lost their jobs during the economic downturn – and their employer-sponsored health insurance. Costs of insurance have risen, pushing premiums out of the price range of some Coloradans.
Still, determining which factors were the most important reasons for being uninsured is a complex exercise. And it’s rarely just one factor.
For example, a young man in his early 20s may be unemployed with no income and uninsured. Each of these traits—age, employment status and income—is associated with uninsurance, but which, if isolated, would still have an effect?
Individuals in poor health are more likely to be uninsured. But is that because having health insurance improves health or do those in poor health encounter barriers to getting covered?
The jury is out.
So before you gulp down six-plus cups of coffee in order to live longer, remember, causal relationships are often not so simple.
For more information on the CHAS, which is a program of The Colorado Trust that is administered by CHI, click on cohealthaccesssurvey.org.