The Weight Of Worry, Educated Debtors, Etc.

Unfortunately, worrying about your weight doesn’t reduce it. Otherwise, Americans would be in fine shape. A recent Gallup poll, analyzed in a Gallup Tuesday Briefing, found that 49 percent of adults (57 percent of women, 39 percent of men) worry about their weight. That’s up from 34 percent in 1990 and 42 percent in 1999. The current figure is especially high for women age 18-49: 62 percent of them said they worry about their weight, vs. 51 percent of women 50-plus. Naturally, there’s less-than-perfect congruence between people who worry about their weight and those who carry some excess lbs. Among those who described themselves as overweight, 69 percent said they spend time worrying about it; among those who described themselves as “about right” or underweight, 33 percent worry about their weight.

You’ve always suspected that education is bad for the economy? A new survey by International Communications Research will confirm your opinion. Conducted for the Cambridge Consumer Credit Index, it found 64 percent of Americans with outstanding student loans saying the debts “prevent them from making other major purchases, such as a house, car or other large-ticket items.” Thirty percent of those with loans characterize them as “a major burden.” It’s a sizable chunk of the total population, given that 21 percent of U.S. households owe money on student loans.

Depending on how smokers respond, results of a new study could be good news or bad news for Big Tobacco. According to a summary of the research on the HealthScout Web site, scientists found that “smoking just one to four cigarettes per day nearly triples risks for dying of heart disease or lung cancer.” Moreover, “light smokers were at a 50 percent higher death rate from all causes than people who’d never smoked.” In other words, the study (published in a journal named Tobacco Control) “dispels the notion that so-called ‘light’ smokers aren’t threatened by the serious health problems faced by heavy smokers.” Some light smokers will take this finding as the impetus they need to quit altogether. But those who cannot or will not quit entirely may now feel there’s no point in struggling to stay on a regimen of just a few cigarettes a day. Given the data, they’ll conclude, why not merrily chain smoke all the live-long day?

Honors for the Best Use of Oriental Despotism in a Restaurant Commercial go this week to Keefer’s, a steakhouse in Chicago. A voiceover inquires, “When was the last time a restaurant actually made you feel important?” The spot illustrates this concept with vintage movie footage of Cleopatra being slavishly pampered by her servants. The Ungar Group of Chicago created the spot. Some viewers will recall that Cleopatra didn’t come to such a good end. If asp is on the menu when they go to Keefer’s, they’ll want to make sure it’s served well done.

If life in Portland, Maine, is no Sunday-school picnic, there’s a reason: It’s the metro area in which the lowest proportion of adults attend Sunday school. The highest proportion, says a study of 86 metros by The Barna Group, is Salt Lake City. Among other tidbits from this survey: “One out of every six residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington are atheist or agnostic—nearly double the national average.” Atheists and agnostics are thinnest on the ground in Louisiana and Missouri. The metro area in which people are likeliest to regard Satan as “a symbol of evil but not a living presence” is Brownsville/McAllen/Harlingen, Texas. The highest proportion of born-again Christians was found in Jackson, Miss. (83 percent) and the lowest in Boston (21 percent).

Pent-up demand just isn’t what it used to be, at least when it comes to at-home broadband Internet connections. A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project notes a slowing in the growth rate for such service. Broadband’s penetration rate rose from 35 percent of home Internet users in November 2003 to 50 percent in December 2004. But it had inched up just three more percentage points by May 2005. Nor is this trend likely to shift soon, as analysis of the data finds less pent-up demand among veteran dial-up users than there was a few years ago. As for the newly wired, “just 23 percent of Internet users who have adopted in the past year have done so with high-speed connections.”