Watching the World

Under Stress

“Almost one half of Canadians complain they are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress trying to balance their jobs and their home life,” reports the Vancouver Sun newspaper. “That’s twice as many as a decade ago.” Why the increase? A survey released by the Conference Board of Canada revealed a rise in the percentage of Canadian workers who are caregivers for family members. More are having children later in life, and these are often faced with the challenge “of caring for both children and parents at the same time.” Although 84 percent of survey respondents still felt satisfied with their jobs, the report notes that when balancing the demands of home and work becomes a problem, “most cut back first on their own time, including sleep time.” The Conference Board notes: “Stress results, and health suffers.”

Teaching Respect for Authority

“Today’s parents demand so little respect for authority that we actually may be lowering our children’s self-esteem,” says a report in The Toronto Star. “Knowing their limits actually appeals to children’s need for predictability and security—which in turn helps them feel higher self-esteem,” notes behavior specialist Ronald Morrish. “It’s children with no sense of rules and responsibility who grow up feeling less secure and confident.” He adds: “I see 6-year-olds who set their own bedtime. I see 3-year-olds whose mothers try to persuade them not to misbehave by explaining how it makes Mommy feel.” Children need to learn to comply with family rules, and the idea that they naturally become less cooperative as they get older is wrong, says Morrish. “We expect children to build their academic knowledge cumulatively each year. So why don’t we also expect kids’ behaviour to improve each year?” he asks. “If you won’t do what it takes to get a toddler to pick up a toy, you won’t have a teenager who makes his curfew.”

Recordings for Barnyard Dining

Canadian scientists have discovered that baby farm animals can be encouraged to eat by playing recordings to them, reports New Scientist. “We recorded the sound a mother hen makes when she finds something she wants her chicks to eat,” says Luis Bate of the University of Prince Edward Island. When the recordings were played back over speakers placed near food, chicks ate even though their mother was not present. But the sounds must be just right. Observes Bate: “When we played them the sound a mother hen makes after chicks hatch, which to my ear sounds identical to the feeding call, the chicks became immobile.” The scientists’ goal is to speed up the animals’ growth, and in initial experiments chicks grew as much as 20 percent faster than normal during their first three weeks. In similar experiments, turkey chicks and piglets could also be encouraged to eat more often.

Prescription for Danger

“Medicines claimed more lives in Germany last year than traffic accidents did,” reported the newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten. Reportedly, some 25,000 people died in 1998 from wrongly prescribed drugs. This is three times as many as were killed in traffic accidents during the same period. Self-medication is said to play only a secondary role. The main problem seems to be a lack of information and training among doctors about the medicines and their effects. Pharmacologist Ingolf Cascorbi said that according to one estimate, “in Germany each year, 10,000 deaths and 250,000 cases of persons suffering from serious side effects could be avoided if research and training were optimized,” states the report.

Similarly, the French magazine Sciences et avenir reports on a recent study in France revealing that of 150,000 prescriptions given to people over 70 years of age, some 10,700 were either wrong or ineffective. Nearly 1 in 50 was potentially dangerous because of possible reactions with other prescribed drugs or other risks. In France elderly people spend an estimated one million days each year in the hospital as a result of negative reactions to medicine.