Ethical Professions, Cuisine Vs. Health, Etc.

Isn’t it a shame that a nice industry like advertising/public relations is stuck with the lowlifes who work in it? So one might infer from a pair of Gallup polls released this month. In one, people were asked for their overall opinion of various industries, ranging from “very positive” to “very negative.” Assessments of the ad/PR field were evenly split: 33 percent positive, 32 percent neutral and 32 percent negative. Could be worse, eh? Well, it got worse in the other survey, which rated the “honesty and ethical standards” of people in various professions. In that poll, just one respondent in 10 rated the ethics of ad practitioners favorably: 2 percent “very high,” 8 percent “high.” More than one-third rated them negatively: 27 percent “low” and 8 percent “very low,” with most of the rest calling them “average.” Why do ad people stand in such lower esteem than the ad/PR business? Consumers may see advertising as a necessary evil in a market economy, but that doesn’t mean they feel obliged to admire people who make a living at it. Respondents gave the highest ethics/ honesty grade to nurses. (Maybe if ad agencies had their employees wear those crisp white caps…) Also scoring well were grade-school teachers, pharmacists, military officers and doctors. Car salesmen fared even worse than ad people. Lawyers, congressmen, business executives and newspaper reporters also rated poorly. In judging industries, Gallup’s respondents were most positive about the computer, restaurant, retail, travel and farming sectors. They were most negative about the oil and gas industry, with the pharmaceutical, healthcare, legal and electrical/gas utility fields also taking a drubbing. Memo to legislators and regulators who want to impose controls on advertising: the federal government scored a bit more poorly than the ad/PR industry did.

Since election day, we’ve heard talk (serious or otherwise) of Bush-haters vowing to move to Canada. Those who carry out this threat will notice some traffic moving in the opposite direction. In an Ipsos-Reid survey, adults in both countries were asked if they’d recently given “very, very serious thought” to taking up residence across the border. In the U.S., 10 percent of respondents said they’d considered moving to Canada. In Canada, 8 percent said they’d considered moving to the U.S. The poll neglected to ask them whether they’d move to a red state or a blue state.

If it weren’t for obesity, this would be a pretty healthy country. In its 15th annual report on the state of Americans’ health, the United Health Foundation points to a 36 percent decline in the incidence of infectious disease since 1990. There have also been big declines since then in infant mortality (31 percent), smoking (25 percent) and cardiovascular death (17 percent). The fly in the public-health ointment is obesity, with the incidence of that condition having increased 97 percent since 1990. Taking into account a variety of factors, the report calls Minnesota, New Hampshire and Vermont the healthiest states; Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana are rated the least healthy. In looking at these lists, one can’t help noticing that the healthiest states lack tasty regional cuisines, while Tennessee (for barbecue) and Louisiana (for Cajun food) are chowhound meccas. Can it be that good local cuisine is a natural enemy of good health?

In the aftermath of the infamous brawl at a Pacers-Pistons NBA game, you may think sports are becoming too violent. However, they may not be as violent as the commercial breaks on sports telecasts. In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers tracked the highest-rated sports telecasts over a 12-month period, analyzing the 1,185 commercials the shows included. Fourteen percent of the spots were judged to display “unsafe behavior,” and 6 percent were said to depict violence. “Of the 322 commercial breaks, 158 (49 percent) contained at least one commercial showing unsafe behavior or violence.” The Super Bowl was the worst offender, while the Masters Golf Tournament was a paragon of non-violent virtue. Most of the violence came in spots for movies and TV shows. Among regular consumer-product categories, automotive commercials had the highest incidence of unsafe behavior. If you’ve been paying attention to car advertising in recent years, this won’t surprise you. Reckless driving has become commonplace in these spots. If the trend continues, it’s hard to imagine the auto industry will go unsued by injured parties (or eager state attorneys general) who argue that such displays inspire real-life reckless driving. We’ll see then whether automakers get much legal mileage out of their perfunctory “don’t try this at home” disclaimers.

If Americans weren’t buying so many prescription drugs, they might have more money to spend on other things. Or, they might be dead. Either way, data in the Census Bureau’s newly published Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2004-2005 gives a sense of how large such drugs loom in people’s lives (see the chart). Quite apart from the cost, the man-hours entailed in getting so many prescriptions and ingesting the drugs could satisfy the labor needs of a fair-sized country.

Think you’ve been seeing more skin? You aren’t just fantasizing. A poll by Jericho Communications, fielded among adult shoppers at malls around the U.S., found 40 percent of them saying they’ve worn more revealing clothes this year than last. Just 3 percent said they’re showing less skin. Asked to cite their chief goal in buying new clothes, roughly equal proportions of women (32 percent) and men (30 percent) said it’s “to look sexy.” Women were more likely than men to say their aim is to look “athletic” (25 percent vs. 20 percent), while equal numbers said they want to look “tough” (21 percent of each sex).