Dependence on mobile devices has gone global—with a study conducted by TIME Magazine finding that 84% of people worldwide claim they couldn’t go a single day without their checking their phones. The researchers polled around 5,000 people from eight countries including the UK, India, South Korea, China, Brazil, Indonesia, and the United States; they found that one in four people check their phones every 30 minutes, and one in five check it every ten minutes. “It’s hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones,” writes Nancy Gibbs, TIME’s Deputy Managing Editor. “Only money comes close—always at hand, don’t leave home without it. But most of us don’t take a wallet to bed with us,” she adds, noting that a smartphone “can replace your wallet now anyway.” Being dependent on cell phones also appears to have mental and physical effects, according to Gibbs. “There’s a smartphone gait: the slow sidewalk weave that comes from being lost in conversation rather than looking where you’re going,” she writes. “Thumbs are stronger, attention shorter, temptation everywhere: We can always be, mentally, digitally, someplace other than where we are.” As the numbers suggest, cell phones dependence is not confined to the wealthy. Gibbs says: “In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water.”
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It’s the classic US election question: which presidential candidate would you rather have a beer with? A candidate who can convince voters of superior drinking-buddy credentials is a candidate likable enough to win the White House—or so the theory goes. And Barack Obama seems to be doggedly pursuing the "beer vote," despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that his rival Mitt Romney eschews alcohol for religious reasons. At the Iowa State Fair this week, a woman offered the president a smoothie, to which he retorted, “Smoothie sounds okay, but a beer sounds better.” Soon, he was offering to buy booze for members of the crowd, who then began chanting, “Four more beers!” On his campaign stops, Obama is frequently seen with a drink in his hand, as if to prove to voters just how “normal” he is. It draws a pointed contrast to his wealthy, Mormon opponent's abstinence—and might just bolster a perception of Romney as an “atypical” American. On the same day that Obama talked beer at the Iowa State Fair, Romney was campaigning at a non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated juice bar. So will the beer vote help propel Obama to a second term? His ad team seems to think it's worth a shot; they devoted a significant amount of time this week to shooting footage of their man talking to voters—with a bottle clutched in his hand.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is well-known for coercing NYC residents—often kicking and screaming—into healthier habits. But most New Yorkers—56%—would actually favor a crackdown on alcohol abuse, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University. Bloomberg has already abolished smoking in bars and public spaces, banned trans-fats from restaurants and launched a bid to restrict soda sizes—but residents are evidently more interested in battling the city's booze problem. Parents especially worry about alcohol, with 60% of moms and dads of under-18s in favor of cracking down on booze, according to the poll. And there are some interesting geographical variations: Bronx residents overwhelmingly support action, but Staten Islanders don't: only 40% of them see tackling alcohol abuse as worthwhile. Those concerned about the city's drinking habits may be in luck, given reports that the city government wants to conduct its own survey on attitudes to alcohol—suggesting booze may be next on Bloomberg's list. But nothing has been confirmed yet. "The administration uses science and research to inform policy decisions, not what's politically popular or unpopular," asserts Samantha Levine, a spokeswoman for the mayor. That much certainly seems true; the poll found weakening support for Bloomberg’s current push to limit soda sizes, with 54% now opposed to the plan, compared to 51% in June.
Parents who allow their underage kids to have booze in order to "teach" safe drinking may actually pave the way for unsafe drinking habits later on, according to a new study from Yale University. Researchers studied 1,160 first year college students who had data compiled about their drinking habits from the previous four years and found that teens who had started getting drunk at 15 were far more likely to develop problems than those who waited until they were 17. Although the findings don't necessarily indicate that drinking at a young age is the cause of heavy drinking later in life, they do show that "beginning to use alcohol at an earlier age was associated with heavier drinking and the experience of more negative consequences during senior year of college," according to corresponding author Meghan Morean, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Morean says there's also evidence that drinking at an early age can lead to more immediate problems such as compromised brain damage during adolescence, poor performance in school and the use of other substances, such as marijuana and cocaine. Despite this, some feel that the decision to introduce kids to alcohol needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. "Ultimately parents know their children and will need to make a judgement call about when and if to introduce their child to alcohol," says Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive of the charity Family Lives. "Equipping parents with the tools to ensure they can talk effectively with their children is the best way of preventing children excessively experimenting and can prevent later problems in teenage and adult life."
Just like the mid-2000s Saturday Night Live sketch, “Appalachian Emergency Room,” wherein country folk get admitted to the hospital for reasons far different from their citified counterparts—such as a nasty ferret bite or getting one’s hand stuck in a tampon machine—it turns out that urban and rural substance abusers also have significantly different drugs of choice, as well as using habits and characteristics, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Based on data from 2009, the report reveals that rural substance-abuse treatment admissions are far more likely to be court-mandated, at a rate of 51.6% (rural) to 28.4% (urban). Rural treatment clients also report primary abuse of alcohol at a much higher rate—49.5%—than do their city cousins (36.1%), in addition to non-heroin opiates (10.6% country vs. 4% city).
As you might imagine, primary abuse of traditional street drugs like heroin and cocaine score more highly in urban areas, with 21.8% of city treatment admissions citing heroin as their main poison (vs. 3.1% in the country), and 11.9% cocaine (5.6% out in the sticks). Other differences include: rural substance abusers are less likely to hit the bottle or the pipe on a daily basis (23.5% do so, as opposed to 43.1% in the city)—perhaps because they are more likely to be employed full- or part-time than those in urban areas—and more likely to have first used their drug of choice prior to turning 18 (32.1% versus 26.7% on the mean streets).