Watching the World
If you were to divide Americans into three generations from the mid-1800’s to the 1920’s, how many people from each generation would be alive in the United States today? A total of more than 30 million, according to the Atlanta Constitution. It published the following: Of those born in the years 1860 to 1882, there are 3,000 alive today. Of those born in the years 1883 to 1900, there are 1,100,000 alive today. And of those born in the years 1901 to 1924, there are 29,000,000 alive today.
Church’s Sharpest Decline
The membership of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Canada, had its sharpest decline in almost 20 years, dropping by 21,000 persons last year. “Membership peaked in 1965 when it stood at 1,064,033,” reports The Toronto Star, but there has been an ongoing decline in church support since. Church membership now stands at 808,441, a decline of more than 250,000. Among the causes for the decline is “the controversy over homosexual ordination” of the clergy, claims the Star. A leading church conservative concluded that there is a “general disillusionment with church leadership and direction.”
One of the most common psychiatric illnesses among young adults in cities may be PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), reports a recent issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. A study conducted by U.S. scientists found that of 1,007 people between the ages of 21 and 30 who were seeking medical attention, about 40 percent, or 394, reported being exposed to extremely traumatic events, such as assault or rape or seeing someone killed. More than 75 percent of the adults exposed to such events were not unduly affected, but 9 percent developed PTSD. The post-traumatic reaction may begin days, weeks, months, or even years later. The survivors may involuntarily relive the traumatic event through recurring memories and nightmares. Or the symptoms may be emotional detachment from loved ones, extreme suspicion of others, and difficulty in concentrating.
A survey of the attitudes of French children from 12 to 15 years of age reveals that a large proportion of them (57 percent) feel sure that God exists or that God probably exists. The survey also reveals that 59 percent of them pray. When they were asked what questions they would most like to have answered, the most frequent reply was: “What is the meaning of life?” Other questions were: “Where do we come from, and where are we going?” “What can we do to make life interesting?” “Why study hard in school?” “What will I do later on in life?” Sociologists Françoise Champion and Yves Lambert, who conducted the survey, observed that overall, today’s youth feel “an emptiness, a vague anxiety.”
Yo-Yo Dieting Dangerous
The seemingly endless cycles of weight loss and weight gain by some dieters, called yo-yo dieting, may have serious and even fatal health consequences, reports a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine. According to The New York Times, Dr. Kelly D. Brownell, a psychologist and weight specialist at Yale University who headed the study, said: “The pressure in this society to be thin at all costs may be exacting a serious toll.” And according to another study done by the Federal Centers for Disease Control, people who yo-yo between loss and gain of more than 25 pounds [11 kg] run a greater risk of dying prematurely than those who smoke cigarettes. Dr. Brownell warned: “People should not undertake a diet unless they are really ready not just to lose weight but to keep it off indefinitely.”
Homelessness Escalates Among Youths
Each year, the Youth Accommodation Association in Sydney, Australia, prepares a list of homeless youths in the city. Two matters of concern show up in this year’s report: (1) The number of homeless youths is growing, and (2) those becoming homeless are doing so at an earlier age. Furthermore, of the more than 15,000 youths who sought shelter during the first half of 1990, only some 6,000 found a bed or a temporary shelter. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted a spokesman for the association as saying that the figures reflected serious problems in the state. “The problem of youth homelessness has continued to grow,” he added. “Short-term accommodation is only part of the solution.”
Japan has a drinking problem, says Asahi Evening News. Japanese women and youths are increasingly resorting to the bottle. The number of drinkers in Japan has more than doubled in the last 25 years, to nearly 55 million adults. An estimated 2.2 million drinkers are alcoholics. When patients are admitted to general hospitals in the first stage of alcoholism, they are usually diagnosed as merely suffering from liver trouble, pancreatitis, diabetes, or other diseases, says the news report, in pointing out a basic flaw in the country’s treatment of alcoholics.
Lynching by Mistake
Brazilian authorities in Mato Grosso are examining a lynching in which three robbers “were beaten and burned to death on the street by an enraged crowd—with the images preserved by video.” Veja magazine comments: “Those indicted for the lynching and murder are good family heads, politicians, and reputable businessmen in a small town. They go to Mass on Sunday, pay their taxes punctually, and educate their children according to strict standards.” But when a crowd takes the law in its own hands, terrible mistakes may occur. The newspaper, O Estado de S. Paulo, reports: “By mistake, about 20 persons killed Josué Nascimento Silva, 15 years old, by clubbing.” In another incident ‘a 13-year-old boy, proved innocent, was killed because he happened to be talking to a suspect when the lynchers appeared.’
An Honest Label
A bit of honest advertising recently cropped up in an unexpected place—on a cigarette box. Early this year, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., a new brand of cigarettes appeared on the market, packaged in a stark black box emblazoned with a white skull and crossbones. Printed on the side of the box in bold white letters is the brand’s name: DEATH. According to Newsweek magazine, the manufacturer claims to have sold 25,000 packs already, with no advertising other than his product’s unusual—but accurate—label. He hopes to expand sales nationally, appealing to smokers who are too young or too naive to fear death. Such consumers are likely to ignore the warning on each pack of Death cigarettes: “If You Don’t Smoke, Don’t Start. If You Smoke, Quit.”
Women’s Woes Waning in Scandinavia
“Scandinavia is the best place on earth to live if you are a woman,” states the London weekly The European. The observation is prompted by a United Nations report on the quality of life for women in comparison with men in more than 160 lands. Ranking is based on such factors as women’s rights, freedom, sexual equality (fair and impartial treatment of people regardless of gender), job opportunities, wage rates, health care, material happiness, and social environment. Topping the list is Finland, followed by Sweden and Denmark. Within Europe, Portugal and Ireland are furthest away from sexual equality. At the very bottom of the UN list is Kenya, where a woman can expect to live only half as long as a man.
Australia was recently praised by a spokesman for the World Health Organization’s advisory panel on tobacco and health for leading the world in antismoking initiatives. Smoking is already banned on all domestic airlines and on public transport in metropolitan areas, as well as in all hospitals and movie theaters. Now the push is on to persuade state governments to ban smoking in restaurants. A recent survey revealed that 92 percent of restaurant clientele in Victoria State favored such a proposed ban. The newspaper The Australian said that according to expert legal opinion, any diner who suffers adverse health effects from passive smoking while eating a meal in a restaurant has the legal right to sue the restaurateur.
Europe may be following suit. Italy’s Constitutional Court, which is the highest interpretative body of the Constitution, has recently acknowledged that citizens have the right to request compensation for “damages incurred by the so-called passive smoking.” The court affirmed that since the Constitution guarantees the “right to health,” whoever smokes in public places violates “the primary and general prohibition of impairing the health of another” and could be made to compensate his victim. “The compensation,” stated the court, is related “to all the damages that could potentially prevent the person from fulfilling himself as a human being.”