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March 23, 1990

Comparative Longevity of Christian Scientists

JAMA. 1990;263(12):1634. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440120056028

To the Editor.—  Much as we respect the rigorous standards of JAMA, the recent study entitled "Comparative Longevity in a College Cohort of Christian Scientists"1 raises questions about the objectivity of the review process in evaluating evidence on an unconventional mode of healing. The study, comparing survival rates among University of Kansas alumni with those among alumni of Principia College (a Christian Science school), was seriously marred by misleading assumptions and incomplete data.The most serious problem stems from the incompleteness of the University of Kansas alumni records, which included current data on only 87% of its graduates from the period under study. The large proportion of unknowns would by itself call into question the validity of any comparative findings. The study compounds the problem with an assumption that is almost certainly invalid: that those Kansas alumni for which the university has no current address "have the same