Watching the World
“Obesity is the number one health problem affecting dogs and cats,” reports The Globe and Mail of Canada. “The causes are similar in humans and animals: poor eating habits and lack of exercise.” Berney Pukay, of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association council, blames the life-style of pet owners: “We don’t get enough exercise because we’re rushed. The dog doesn’t get enough exercise because the owner is rushed. We need comfort food so our pets get comfort food.” The Globe warns that “overweight pets have a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis. . . . They die younger than healthy animals.” Veterinary treatment for obese pets usually includes a restricted diet and, for dogs, increased exercise.
“If you are packing your bags for the nicest weeks of the year, be careful!” cautions the Hamburg newspaper Die Welt. Strife and squabbling spoil many a family vacation. According to one German study, “one divorce in three is filed after a shared vacation.” Why? One factor may be unaccustomed closeness and togetherness, resulting in family members’ getting on each other’s nerves. To avoid a crisis, psychologists suggest planning out vacations in advance, scheduling common activities with enough flexibility to accommodate individual wishes. “Excessively high expectations play a role [in the vacation dilemma],” states Die Welt. “Since the year consists of eleven months of work and daily routine, three to four weeks of vacation are expected to make up for everything that was neglected during the rest of the year.”
More Out-of-Wedlock Children
According to Eurostat, a European statistical agency, currently 1 baby in 4 in the European Union is born out of wedlock, reports the German newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. In 1980 the rate was less than 1 in 10. The lowest incidence of unwed childbirth—4 percent—is found in Greece. On the other end of the spectrum, in Sweden more than half of all births are out of wedlock. Ireland has seen the biggest change. The number of out-of-wedlock children born there rose from just 5 percent in 1980 to 31.8 percent in 2000. Such significant increases “prove that there has been a marked change in attitude toward marriage and family among Europeans,” states the report.
Hornets Build With Magnets
“Hornets are master builders who use the insect equivalent of a surveyor’s spirit level to ensure that their nests are aligned correctly,” states London’s newspaper The Daily Telegraph. A team of scientists from Tel Aviv University, in Israel, who studied oriental hornets discovered that the insects glue a tiny magnetic crystal—measuring four thousandths of an inch [0.1 mm] across and containing titanium, iron, and oxygen—to the roof of every hexagonal chamber in a comb. “Hornet nests are usually built from layers of horizontal combs supported by vertical struts,” states the report. Just how the magnets work is as yet unknown, but evidently “the network of crystals helps the insects to orientate in the dark and ensures that the hornets’ nest is not dangerously lopsided. A study is now under way to find out whether other wasps, or even bees, use the same technique.”
Young Women and Osteoporosis
An increasing number of young women are putting themselves at risk for osteoporosis later in life because of excessive dieting, warns Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. With osteoporosis, a disease that afflicts many older women, bone density becomes so low that the bones break easily. Bone formation in women is closely linked to female hormones. From the start of menstruation, bone density increases rapidly and peaks at about age 20, before starting to decline at about age 40. “The higher the peak of bone density, even if it lessens afterward, the longer it will take to get to the point where bones break easily,” explains Professor Ikuko Ezawa of Japan’s Women’s University. Therefore, she adds: “It is very important to get the most bone density possible by the age of 20.” However, young women show little concern about osteoporosis. “In general, they don’t take in sufficient nutrition,” says Ezawa. “In particular, lack of calcium and lack of exercise have a direct effect on the bones.”
Happy and Healthy at 100
According to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, “80 percent of people over 100 years of age feel they are healthy and feel good every day.” The number of centenarians in Japan first passed 1,000 in 1981, and it reached 13,000 in the year 2000. Recently, Japan’s Foundation of Health and Stamina conducted a survey of more than 1,900 centenarians, apparently the largest study ever done on the “quality of life” of seniors over 100. “A larger number of the men, 43.6 percent, as opposed to women, 25.8 percent, say that they ‘have a purpose in life,’” reported the newspaper. Most of the centenarians mentioned “family,” “long life,” and “enjoying good health and living happily” among their life purposes. Hence, Yomiuri Shimbun suggests that “having something to live for leads to long life.”
A recent census revealed that in France 1 person in 8 now lives alone. This proportion is twice what it was 30 years ago, reports the French daily Le Monde. The statistics include youths who do not as yet have a partner as well as the elderly. More women live alone than men, and the article notes that “the higher a woman’s social status, the more likely she is to live on her own.” The census also reveals that since 1990, there has been a 22-percent increase in the number of single-parent families and a 16-percent increase in the number of couples without children. “In total,” concludes the article, “there are now more childless couples and people living alone than there are households with children.”
Sexually Active Teens
A report by Britain’s Family Matters Institute indicates that teenagers are “twice as likely to have had sex if their parents were separated or if their parents were cohabiting rather than married,” says The Guardian of London. One quarter of sexually active 13-year-olds have had at least four sexual partners, and 1 in 5 young teenagers were drunk when they lost their virginity. The report stresses the need for “a strong emphasis upon marriage as the ideal type of family unit for raising children.” Problems arise when there are ‘weak parent-teen relationships, infrequent contact, and less supervision.’ The report concludes: “Until the parents of young teenagers begin to take more responsibility for their children’s behaviour, the level of underage sex will not decline and teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease will continue to rise.”
Sleep experts, along with traffic-safety advocates, are advising motorists not to drive when they are overtired, reports the Fleet Maintenance & Safety Report. Although sleep researchers recommend at least eight hours of sleep every night, studies show that many people try to get by on much less. Surveys also show that drivers between the ages of 19 and 29 are more likely than other age groups to drive when drowsy and are more inclined to increase their speed when they feel sleepy. “Alcohol also increases the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel,” states the report. David Willis, president of the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, points out that playing the radio or lowering the window will not keep you awake, but a short nap may help you get over drowsiness. Willis stresses: “The only cure for drowsiness is sleep.”