What a Surprise

One of my email alerts this morning was a story from “HealthDay” reporting that 15 million Americans now suffer from social anxiety disorder. The latest numbers from the National Institutes on Mental Health claim an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans 18 and older (meaning approximately one in four adults) live with a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

Our physical health isn’t much better. Sixty-six percent of noninstitutionalized adults age 20 years and over are overweight or obese (NHANES data on the Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Adults, 2003-2004). Approximately 18 percent of children and adolescents are the same (NHANES data on the Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents, 2003-2004). Counting on good health care – or at least health care covered by health insurance – to counter this trend? The latest survey of health care coverage (2005) reported close to 47 million Americans (16 percent of the population) without health insurance.

For a few more rosy snapshots of our society, consider that in February the New York Times reported that the prison population in the United States is close to 1.6 million, meaning about 1 out of every 100 Americans is incarcerated (NY Times, February 29, 2008). Further, the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that twenty-two percent of adults lack only the most simple literacy skills, or that they read at what’s deemed the “Below Basic” level. In 2005, 9.4 percent of young people, aged 16-24, dropped out of high school (6.0 percent white, 10.4 percent black, 22.4 percent Hispanic). For those who continue on with their education, each leaves college with an average student loan debt of $19,237 (National Center for Education Statistics).

The Motley Fool reports that Americans owe $1.7 trillion in total credit. Not to be outdone, the U.S. National Debt Clock as of April 11, 2008 shows the outstanding public debt (the national deficit) at $9,440,165,382,893.35. Wanna pay your “fair share”? Add $31,074.73 on top of any mortgage loan, car loan, student loan, credit card debt, or any other money you owe anywhere else and you should be all set.

The medical news is continuously filled with stories reporting the latest findings of studies that surely could be lumped into the “stating the obvious” pile. And since the National Institutes of Health and other large funding bodies (both government and private) seem willing to financially support this work, I’m thinking that it’s time to submit my grant proposal for research that will prove, once and for all, that a consumer driven, spiritually bankrupt, greed infested, gun toting, educationally deprived, war mongering culture is… surprise!… not the most healthy environment in which one can live.

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