STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT VS CLINICALLY SIGNIFICANT. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO KNOW?
Science used to be reserved for the nerds, but now science is making its way into the mainstream. It is cool to be a science geek now—and marketers know all about that. I am happy science is spreading into the mainstream, but what we want to concern ourselves with is good science, not bad science. Good science involves interpreting a study paper accurately. Before I proceed, let’s get some quick definitions:
Clinically significant: In medicine and psychology, clinical significance is the practical importance of a treatment effect—whether it has a genuine, palpable, noticeable effect on daily life.
Statistically significant: Statistically significant is the likelihood that a relationship between two or more variables is caused by something other than chance. Statistical hypothesis testing is used to determine whether the result of a data set is statistically significant. This test provides a p-value, representing the probability that random chance could explain the result; in general, a p-value of 5% or lower is considered to be statistically significant.
I have probably lost a lot of you already, but trust me, hang in there—it will all make sense at the end of this blog. Let me explain these two definitions above in a way that is meaningful to the layman.
If there was a steroid that was proven in a placebo-controlled study to gain 15 lbs of muscle more than the placebo group after 12 weeks, would you want to use that steroid? You probably answered yes.
If there was a steroid that was proven in a in a placebo-controlled study to gain 200% more muscle than the placebo group after 12 weeks, would you want to use that anabolic steroid? You probably answered yes to this also. What if I told you that the placebo group only gained 1 lb of lean muscle over the 12 weeks? Why, that would mean the anabolic steroid group gained 200% more, which is twice as more, or 2 lbs. “2 measly pounds? It looked so good as a 200% value?” I thought the same too when I first figured this out. 200% is also considered to be a clinically significant difference. And this, is where marketers take advantage of the layman and to be fair—this is also where a bad scientist may draw some bad conclusions from a study paper. You see, it is not always the study paper that was poor, but often the reader’s interpretation of that study that was poor.
And what does this mean for us PED and AAS users? Well, the first example was clinically significant. The outcome was 15 lbs more muscle gained in 12 weeks for those who took the anabolic steroid vs those who did not. This is also known as the outcome the layman wants to know; the outcome that actually matters for the user. So, the next time you are presented with a paper that proves a substance supposedly increases XY benefit by YZ percent—be sure that these statements are clinically meaningful as well, before you buy. In the world of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancers where research is limited in the context of which we need it, these two definitions are important—and you will begin to notice their relevance more now after reading here today.