Do we really have a ‘suicidal generation’? – UnHerd

There’s no evidence that social media is to blame for an increase in teen deaths

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There’s this trick that climate deniers used to use. They used to say “there’s been no warming since 1998”. And in a weird way they were right: looking at global atmospheric surface temperatures, none of the years that followed was as hot as 1998.

But they were cheating. They picked 1998 deliberately since it was an outlier – an El Niño year much hotter than the years around it. If you were, on the other hand, to measure from 1997 or 1999, then there were lots of much hotter years on record; and the clear trend was that later years, on average, were hotter than earlier ones. It was a wobbly, noisy line, with some outliers, but the average temperature really was going up, and the only way you could hide that trend was by cherry-picking statistics.

I was thinking about this as I read the Sunday Times splash this week, which (using as-yet unavailable data from the Office for National Statistics) claimed that the “suicide rate among teenagers has nearly doubled in eight years”. It expressed concerns that we are raising “a suicidal generation”.

Read the rest here.

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I’m the science editor at; I also do freelance science writing. Until January 2018 I was science writer for BuzzFeed UK; before that, I was a comment and features writer for the Telegraph, having joined in 2007. My second book, How to Read Numbers: A Guide to Stats in the News  (and Knowing When to Trust Them) was published in 2021; my first book, The Rationalist’s Guide to the Galaxy: Superintelligent AI and the Geeks Who Are Trying to Save Humanity’s Future, was published in 2019. I’ve written for the Times, the i, the Telegraph, the Observer, the Guardian,, New Scientist, CNN, Wired, Smithsonian Air & Space, and elsewhere.

I’ve won several awards, including the Royal Statistical Society’s award for statistical excellence in journalism (twice, in 2018 and 2020) and the Association of British Science Writers’ science journalist of the year (in 2021). My first book was one of the Times’s science books of the year.

Contact me via Twitter or by email.

Below, I’ve added a few links to some of my favourite things that I’ve done over the years.

The header pic is the Cassini space probe’s final image of Saturn, because Cassini is the best space thing.