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Mental health
Evaluation of spin in abstracts of papers in psychiatry and psychology journals
  1. Samuel Jellison1,
  2. Will Roberts1,
  3. Aaron Bowers1,
  4. Tyler Combs1,
  5. Jason Beaman2,3,
  6. Cole Wayant1,
  7. Matt Vassar1
  1. 1 College of Osteopathic Medicine, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
  2. 2 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
  3. 3 Department of Psychiatry, Oklahoma State University Medical Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
  1. Correspondence to Samuel Jellison, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, OK 74107, USA; samuesj{at}


We have identified ‘spin’ in abstracts of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with nonsignificant primary endpoints in psychiatry and psychology journals. This is a cross-sectional review of clinical trials with nonsignificant primary endpoints published in psychiatry and psychology journals from January 2012 to December 2017. The main outcome was the frequency and manifestation of spin in the abstracts. We define spin as the ‘use of specific reporting strategies, from whatever motive, to highlight that the experimental treatment is beneficial, despite a statistically nonsignificant difference for the primary outcome, or to distract the reader from statistically nonsignificant results’. We have also assessed the relationship between industry funding and spin. Of the 486 RCTs examined, 116 were included in our analysis of spin. Spin was identified in 56% (n=65) of those included. Spin was found in 2 (2%) titles, 24 (21%) abstract results sections and 57 (49.1%) abstract conclusion sections. Evidence of spin was simultaneously identified in both results and conclusions sections in 15% of RCTs (n=17). Twelve articles reported industry funding (10%). Industry funding was not associated with increased odds of spin in the abstract (unadjusted OR: 1.0; 95% CI: 0.3 to 3.2). We found no relationship between industry funding and spin in abstracts. These findings raise concerns about the effects spin may have on clinicians. Further steps could be taken to address spin, including inviting reviewers to comment on the presence of spin and updating Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials guidelines to contain language discouraging spin.

  • data reporting
  • psychiatry
  • bias
  • research methodology
  • psychiatry in literature

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  • Contributors All authors substantially contributed to the conception or design of the work, or the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data. All authors contributed to the drafting of the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content. All authors gave final approval of the version published. All authors agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.