Men are more likely than women to be admitted to an emergency department after accidental injuries, as well as being more prone to sporting injuries and fatal traffic collisions.
The journal's Christmas edition of spoof stories and silly - yet peer-reviewed studies - has become so notorious that, in 2009, a Danish journal conducted a study of citations of BMJ Christmas articles, investigating to what extent the studies were reported at face value, rather than taking their humorous intent into account.
Elsewhere on Medical News Today, you will find a discussion of the BMJ's study into why magazines in doctors' waiting rooms are always old. Here, we look at a study reviewing data from the Darwin Awards, which concludes that - scientifically - men are idiots.
The Darwin Awards is an annual hall of fame commemorating those considered to have died in exceptionally stupid ways.
Wendy Northcutt, author of the Darwin Awards' website, describes the awards' rationale:
"In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival."
Although many of the early entrants in the Darwin Awards - collected during the web's relative infancy in 1993 - turned out to be hoaxes or urban legends, verified-as-real winners include:
- James Burns of Michigan, who died while attempting to repair his truck from underneath while it was still in motion
- Polish farmer Krystof Azninski, who won a "contest of masculinity," trumping his friends - who had stripped naked and were hitting each other over the head with frozen turnips - by cutting off his own head with a chainsaw
- A terrorist who posted a letter bomb with insufficient postage and, upon its return, unthinkingly opened his own letter.
Data lacking on 'sex differences in idiotic risk-taking behavior'
The researchers behind the study, from Newcastle University, note that sex differences are well documented when it comes to risk-seeking behavior and emergency hospital admissions. Men are more likely than women to be admitted to an emergency department after accidental injuries, as well as being more prone to sporting injuries and fatal traffic collisions.
However, the authors say that there is less available data on "sex differences in idiotic risk-taking behavior." Therefore, they configured the new study to test "male idiot theory" - the idea that sex differences in risk-seeking behavior explain the observation that "men are idiots and idiots do stupid things."
Examining the nominations of the past 20 years, the researchers found that of 413 Darwin Awards nominations, 332 were independently verified and confirmed. The researchers then excluded joint male and female nominees from their analysis - typically, "overly adventurous couples in compromising positions" - leaving 318 valid cases.
The analysis shows that, of these 318 cases, 282 of the awards were awarded to men, with just 36 being given to women. Therefore, the study reports a hugely statistically significant finding of men making up 88.7% of Darwin Award winners.
The researchers consider this finding to support the hypothesis that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.
However, the authors concede that the results could have confounding influences. For instance, women may be more likely to nominate men for a Darwin Award, or the sex difference may be indicative of differences in alcohol use between men and women.
Further investigation will follow. "With the festive season upon us," write the authors, "we intend to follow up with observational field studies and an experimental study - males and females, with and without alcohol - in a semi-naturalistic Christmas party setting."