Mixed Blessings

The Cost of Our Colds, Detail on the Devil, Etc.

Honesty may be the best policy, but its practice doesn’t always extend to insurance policies. In a new Accenture poll, nearly one-fourth of adults said overstating the value of claims to insurance companies is acceptable. Along the same lines, “more than one in 10 say they approve of submitting insurance claims for items that were not lost or damaged or for treatments that were not provided.” Eleven percent said they know someone who inflated the value of an insurance claim. Would they rat out these malefactors? Forty percent said they’d be “unlikely” to do so.

Don’t catch a cold. The economy is bad enough as it is. An article in the Archives of Internal Medicine describes a study that estimates non-influenza-related viral respiratory tract infections (colds, to the layman) impose an “economic impact” of $40 billion annually. The figure includes such factors as workplace absenteeism, productivity losses and the use of healthcare resources. Looking on the bright side, you could say cold-sufferers stimulate the retail economy with their purchases of $2.9 billion worth of over-the-counter remedies. Among the 72 percent of respondents who had a cold during the past year, the average number of episodes per head (and per nose) was 2.5. In its own write-up of the findings, the HealthScout Web site notes that colds yield more than 100 million physician visits a year, many of these involving children.

Not everyone aims to “suck the sweet marrow of original life” when they go on a vacation. But some do, and Nevada will grab its share of the marrow-sucking demographic with this dramatic execution in its “Bring it on” series. Another new ad in the campaign invites readers to “seize life by the throat & throttle it like a rag doll.” Well, if this sort of extreme tourism doesn’t appeal to you, there are 49 tamer states in the U.S. R&R Partners of Las Vegas created the ads.

And now for a little satanic data. A new report from Gallup gives some intriguing numbers on the incidence of belief that the devil exists. In a regional breakdown, people in the South are more likely than those in the East (79 percent vs. 56 percent) to say the old boy exists. While this belief declines in tandem with respondents’ level of education, it still commands a majority (55 percent) of people with postgraduate degrees. Among those who didn’t get beyond high school, the figure is 70 percent. On the political front, 75 percent of conservatives, 70 percent of moderates and 52 percent of liberals give the devil his due. There’s surprisingly little difference among age groups, with 66 percent of the 18-29 cohort saying they believe in the devil, as do 70 percent of those 30-64 and 65 percent of those 65 and older.

If there’s a clash of civilizations between Western and Muslim societies, it has more to do with sex than with politics. At least, that’s the indication of new data from the World Values Survey, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. In Western and Muslim countries alike, nearly nine-tenths of those surveyed agreed that democracy is the best form of government. On matters of sex and gender, though, there’s a clear divide. For instance, 82 percent in the West said they favor gender equality, vs. 55 percent in the Muslim countries. While 53 percent in the West voiced “some degree of tolerance” for homosexuality, 12 percent in the Muslim countries did so. On divorce and abortion, the incidence of tolerance was nearly twice as high in the Western countries as in Muslim societies.

The Internet is good for lots of things, but matchmaking isn’t one of them. That’s the opinion, anyway, of a majority of Internet users in a CBS News survey. Among wired married people, just 17 percent believe the Internet is a good place for singles to meet, while 72 percent think it’s not. Among wired singles, 33 percent think it’s a good venue for such encounters, while 60 percent think it’s not. Among the singles, 36 percent said they know somebody who had a bad date with someone he or she met online. Five percent claimed to have suffered such a disagreeable experience themselves. We’ll hope they don’t overlap with the 1 percent of respondents who reported marrying someone they first met on the Internet.

The pleasure of embracing a new brand is nothing compared to the joy of booting an old one. A commercial for Dish Network seizes on that fact. We watch (along with the astonished neighbors) as an otherwise normal-looking woman replicates the Olympic hammer-throw with her cable box, sending it skyward. There, it crashes into a telephone poll—presumably the one that carried her cable. A voiceover touts Dish Network’s “lowest all-digital price in America,” but that’s clearly secondary to the satisfaction promised by the line, “Chuck your cable.” Agency for the effort is davidandgoliath of Los Angeles.

Millions of advertising dollars have been spent to convince women that blondes have more fun. Do men think it’s true? Citing a poll conducted for Clairol Colorwonderful, an item in Glamour says 54 percent of men believe redheads have the best love life. Twenty-eight percent think brunettes do, while just 18 percent point to blondes.

Even if your job isn’t delighting you these days, it’s less and less likely to injure you. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds a steady decline since 1991 in the incidence of workplace injury/illness that causes people to miss days on the job. There were 1.7 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2001, vs. 1.8 the year before and 3.2 in 1991.