Burned-Out Workers, Overlooked News, Etc.

Burnout isn’t the norm, but it’s certainly common in today’s workplace. In polling conducted for Spherion Corp., 28 percent of American workers said they feel burnout on the job. Twenty-two percent termed themselves “neutral” on the matter, while 50 percent said they don’t feel burned out. (Whether their colleagues view them as burnt-out cases is another question.) The burnout rate was marginally higher for men (29 percent) than women (27 percent). Is it most severe among people who’ve been in the workplace the longest? On the contrary: It was below-average among workers age 50-64 (21 percent) and above average among the 18-24s (32 percent), 25-29s (33 percent) and 30-39s (34 percent).

If you haven’t run into your neighbors lately at the grocery story, maybe it’s because they weren’t there. Or you weren’t. A report from ACNielsen documents a steady decline in the number of trips the average American makes each year to traditional grocery stores. The number stood at 69 last year, down from 72 in 2003, 75 in 2001 and 92 as recently as 1995. Supercenters have taken up some of the slack, with consumers averaging 27 trips to those venues last year, up from 18 visits in 2001. Dollar stores have enjoyed the biggest rise in household penetration in recent years. In 2001, 59 percent of adults shopped at such outlets, vs. 67 percent last year.

And people say ads aren’t educational. In-store posters for Great Outdoor Provision Co., a chain of stores in North Carolina, offer all sorts of informative lore about survival in the great outdoors. For instance, did you realize that “When sleeping, 75% of heat loss is downward”? The poster that mentions this fact advises you to “make sure you have something toasty beneath you” when camping out—whether an extra sleeping bag, a fleece blanket or a “burly lumberjack.” The ad seen here notes that you “may not smell like a fist full of roses” after your sojourn in the wild (though it counsels the use of horse-chestnut leaves as a natural soap). All the more reason to wear a hat so you’ll “look your best no matter how many brambles and weevils you have stuck in your hair.” The Republik of Durham, N.C., created the campaign.

Who’d have thought the Internet was such a catalyst of family togetherness? Due to fear of online predators and unsavory Web sites, “three out of four parents say they are in the room when their children go online,” according to a new study by The Conference Board and TNS NFO. An even higher proportion of parents (95 percent) claimed that they monitor their kids’ online activities. And just what are youngsters up to in cyberspace? Among those age 6-12, “close to three-quarters log on to complete school assignments, but an even greater proportion log on for fun.” In the teenage years, though, the demands of school work account for the biggest share of online time—”though the pursuit of fun remains high on the list.”

The media lavish attention on health-related stories, presumably on the theory that everyone cares about staying alive. As we learn from a study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, though, there can be large variations in the degree to which different demographic groups pay attention to such news. Survey respondents were asked to say how closely they’ve followed news of some recent events—including the reports about serious side effects related to prescription drugs Vioxx and Celebrex. Predictably, old people (typically the biggest consumers of prescription drugs) were the most likely to be paying attention. As you can see from the chart, though, there were wide gaps among other cohorts as well. Men’s comparative indifference is in keeping with their general obliviousness to personal health, including their reticence about going to the doctor. The variations among different ethnic groups are less easily explained. So are the disparities by region: 35 percent of respondents in the South said they’ve paid very close attention to the Vioxx/Celebrex news, vs. 30 percent in the East, 28 percent in the Midwest and a mere 16 percent in the West. While college graduates tend to follow news coverage more closely than people with just a high school education, that pattern was reversed in this case: 25 percent of the former, vs. 33 percent of the latter, claimed to have followed the Vioxx/Celebrex news reports very closely.

You can’t run for president without making a speech that declares, “America’s best days are ahead of it.” (Some obscure clause of the Constitution must demand it.) It’s surprising, then, to find that fewer than half of registered voters believe the statement is true. In a Rasmussen Reports poll, 42 percent of respondents agreed that America’s best days are yet to come. Inevitably, there was a partisan divide. Sixty-one percent of Republicans said they think America’s best days are yet to come. Democrats must doubt that happy days will ever be here again, as just 29 percent agreed that America’s best days lie ahead. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found a similar divide when it posed the question, “In five years, do you think the life of the average American will be better or worse than it is today?” Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to say “better” (72 percent vs. 36 percent); Democrats were more than three times as likely as Republicans to say “worse” (48 percent vs. 13 percent). One problem with pessimism is that it mars the pleasure we’d otherwise feel when things pan out well. Democrats will doubtless be glad for the average American if that deserving soul is better off in five years. Human nature being what it is, though, they may also feel chagrined to have been wrong in their forecast. Optimists are more in a position to feel unmixed pleasure if things turn out well. Might this help to explain Americans’ predilection for electing candidates they view as optimistic?