The Chronically Pained, The Unchurched, Etc.

In our optimistic moments, we assume that modern medicine can banish anything short of fatal disease. In fact, though, many aches and pains resist easy treatment. That helps account for the fact that about 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. A study by the American Chronic Pain Association, with support from Endo Pharmaceuticals, looks at various characteristics of the afflicted. (Fielded by Roper Public Affairs & Media, the study defined chronic pain as “pain that occurs constantly/flares up frequently, is not caused by cancer and is experienced at least once a month.”) As you’d expect, chronic pain is more common among the old than the young. Still, nearly half of the sufferers are 18-34 (15 percent) or 35-50 (31 percent). Women outnumber men in this population (61 percent vs. 39 percent). Three-quarters of those with chronic pain experience it daily, including the 48 percent for whom pain is “ever present.” You might think people would rush to a doctor when such a problem arises, but 30 percent delayed doing so for more than three months—in many cases waiting until the pain had worsened. (They may seem soft, but Americans are closet Spartans.) What sort of remedies do chronic sufferers employ? Twenty-seven percent just take prescription drugs; 26 percent use prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Another 29 percent use OTC drugs alone; 15 percent use “alternative” treatments exclusively. People who just use OTC drugs are less likely to be in severe pain than those who use prescription medicine. Still, 19 percent said “they take only OTC because of financial considerations.” Money is also a factor for people who don’t take a prescription drug in the prescribed dosage, but they’re most likely to be “non-compliant” due to concern about a drug’s side effects.

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself: Do the mascots for baseball teams fraternize with the players? Even if you haven’t posed that question, a spot promoting ticket sales for the Seattle Mariners has an answer. We see the Mariner Moose in the clubhouse, playing poker with some team members. And he’s doing well, partly due to an unvarying poker face that never tips off his rivals to the quality of the cards he holds. (Try wearing a moose head to your poker night.) The question left unanswered is why a team called “Mariners” has a moose as its mascot. Seattle’s Copacino + Fujikado created the commercial.

If you want to insult teenagers in a factually accurate way, yell “cheater” at them. You’ll have a good chance of being correct. In an ABC News Primetime poll of kids age 12-17, 29 percent confessed to cheating on tests in school. Among those in the 16-17 bracket, the figure rose to 43 percent. When asked how many kids in their school cheat, 26 percent of respondents said “hardly any” or “none.” But 44 percent said “some,” 15 percent said “a lot” and 12 percent said “most.” Sixty-one percent said they have friends who’ve cheated. All these numbers suggest it’s an article of faith among teens that one must cheat to succeed in life. However, just 8 percent of them subscribed to the statement, “If you’re going to get ahead in life, you have to cheat from time to time.” By contrast, 90 percent endorsed the opinion that cheaters “will lose out in the long run.”

While avid dieters enlist in one regimen after another, we shouldn’t forget that many Americans munch away in merry indifference. A poll by The NPD Group finds 54 percent of adults saying, “I eat whatever tastes good to me.” That’s nearly double the number who “monitor the nutritional value of what I eat” (23 percent). When they do diet, Americans tend to be do-it-yourselfers. Twenty-five percent have tried a diet of their own devising, and 7 percent are on one now. The Atkins Diet is the runner-up, with 17 percent saying they’ve tried it and 4 percent claiming to follow it now.

Say “digital cheese!” A new Mintel report says sales of digital cameras surpassed those of old-fangled film cameras last year, reaching $5.7 billion. In fact, sales have grown so quickly that we’re now entering the phase, “befitting a maturing market,” in which the growth rate is forecast to slow. Still, Mintel expects sales to rise a brisk 72 percent by 2008, reaching nearly $10 billion. This is apt to mean a rise in gross national picture-taking: “The majority of traditional-camera owners only use them for holidays or special occasions, while the majority of digital-camera owners take weekly pictures.”

Honors for Best Use of a Parrot in an Eye-Surgery Ad go this week to Michigan-based Shoreline Ophthalmology. Of course, the rise in Lasik surgery there will take a toll on sales of conventional bird swings as folks use their old eyeglasses for that purpose, but progress always has its price. Meyer & Wallis of Milwaukee created the ad.

The rambunctious student is a fixture of youth-oriented advertising. Parents may find this stock character unamusing, though. In a survey by Public Agenda, 43 percent of parents of middle- and high-school kids “believe their child would accomplish more in school if teachers weren’t distracted by discipline issues.” Even more parents (73 percent) believe “the school experience of most students suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders.” What lies behind the epidemic of misbehavior? Seventy-four percent pointed to “parents’ failure to teach their children discipline.” Nearly as many (68 percent) see a broader problem: “There’s disrespect everywhere in our culture—students absorb it and bring it to school.” As for possible cures, 63 percent of parents voiced strong support for a “broken windows” approach—i.e., “strictly enforcing the little rules so the right tone is created and bigger problems are avoided.”

It’s often said the U.S. has experienced a religious revival in recent years. If that’s true (and the evidence is mixed), it has been paralleled by an irreligious revival. A study by The Barna Group finds a steep rise in the number of adults who are “unchurched”—those “not having attended a Christian church service, other than for a holiday service such as Christmas or Easter, or for special events such as a wedding or funeral, at any time in the past six months.” In 1991, 21 percent of U.S. adults qualified as unchurched. In this year’s study, 34 percent did so. Men are more likely than women to be unchurched; young adults are more likely than their elders to be so. It’s a sign of how religious the U.S. is, though, that even the unchurched aren’t an utterly pagan bunch: In a typical week, 63 percent pray and 19 percent read the Bible.