Why the ‘vegans take twice as many sick days’ research is just as stupid as ‘but bacon’ | Totally Vegan Buzz

Why the ‘vegans take twice as many sick days’ research is just as stupid as ‘but bacon’

Why The ‘Vegans Take Twice As Many Sick Days’ Research Is Just As Stupid As ‘But Bacon’
Image: Brittany Colette / Unsplash

The anti-vegan brigade could not contain their excitement when a recent study suggested vegans take more sick days than those with other diets.

Sensationalist headlines greeted this year’s Fisherman’s Friend Annual Cold & Flu Survey, as meat eaters found new ammunition to insult a compassionate lifestyle.

It’s become the latest go-to brag about eating meat – being used as a weapon to suggest vegans are weaker.

Vegans surveyed took an average of 4.8 days off work for cold-related sickness, compared with a national average of 2.5 days.

But you only need to dig very slightly deeper into the statistics to reveal how insignificant they are.


The data gathered by Fisherman’s Friend – the name alone suggesting how much loyalty they may have to veganism – was from just 1,000 participants.

Latest research suggests that 7% of people in the UK are vegan. Taking 7% of the sample would mean that generalisations about vegans are being based on questions asked to roughly 70 people – hardly a significant sample out of the 3.5 million vegans in the UK.

If just one of those 70 people took a few months off work, we’d be faced with a seriously skewed result.


The survey also found that millennial workers took three times as much sick leave as those aged over 55.

Research generally finds far more vegans are younger. In 2016 one report found that two thirds of vegans were under 34.

So, if younger people take three times as many days off as older people, vegans are mostly younger, and vegans are only taking twice as many days as meat-eaters – this could just as easily suggest that veganism is actually reducing the amount of time people take off work.

In such a small sample, a sweeping statement cannot legitimately be made.

It could be that age is the main factor in how often we miss work, and even then we cannot assume why that might be. Is it that younger people are more susceptible to illness, or that there are societal factors at play. Who knows?

False correlation

Even if this survey was of every single person in Britain, finding a correlation does not mean one thing caused another.

There are many famous false, and hilarious, correlations – so much so there is an entire website dedicated to them.

For example, in the US, there’s a 99.79% correlation between ‘spending on science, space and technology’, and the ‘number of deaths by hanging, strangulation and suffocation’.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, meat eaters jumping on the data show how desperate they are for proof that veganism is unhealthy.

This isn’t up for debate anymore. Veganism is healthy. It just is. Move on.

So, it looks like we can retire the latest attack on veganism to the history books, with about as much respect as ‘but bacon’.

This is an opinion piece written by Totally Vegan Buzz Editor Oli Gross. What do you think about the research? Tell us in the comments section below!

Published by Oli Gross

Oli’s career and personal ethical values both help shape his reporting of the diverse world of veganism. His background is in local newspaper and magazine journalism, and his work has included reporting court cases, celebrity interviews, business analysis, food and drink features and government legislation.



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