HealthDay News — Press releases issued by universities can often be the source of exaggerated news reports about health research, indicate the results of a study published in The BMJ.

To identify the sources (press releases or news) of distortions, exaggerations, or changes to the main conclusions drawn from research, Petroc Sumner, PhD, of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed 462 news releases on health-related research issued by 20 leading universities in the United Kingdom in 2011 and compared them with studies they described and to 668 pieces of national news coverage about the studies.

Compared with the actual studies, 40% of university releases contained exaggerated advice, one-third contained exaggerated casual claims, and 36% contained exaggerated inferences on how animal research applied to humans.

If press releases exaggerated the research, it was more likely that news coverage would do the same: 58% for advice, 81% for causal claims, and 86% for inference to humans. When press releases did not exaggerate, rates of exaggeration in news coverage were 17%, 18%, and 10%, respectively.

“Improving the accuracy of academic press releases could represent a key opportunity for reducing misleading health related news.


  1. Sumner P et al. The BMJ. 2014; doi: