Vajgrt: We’re No. 1

Apr 272011

Politicians show their adoration for America by constantly referring to it as the greatest country on earth. Indeed, patriotic Americans love to espouse all the reasons that the U.S. is number one.
It’s undeniable that the U.S. is highly influential abroad in just about every facet imaginable. Foreign countries seemingly can’t get enough of our music, fashion, TV and movies, pop culture, fast food and soft drinks.

Despite all this, there are many categories in which America is number one that should quell our bravado just a tad. For instance:

We’ve become a hefty bunch. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, while more than one third are classified as obese. From needing to manufacture fatter crash test dummies to loosening military physical fitness requirements in order to meet demand, our ever-expanding waistlines are starting to get out of control.

Here in Colorado, we’re off the hook a little bit. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only Colorado and the District of Columbia can claim obesity rates lower than 20 percent. The Fort Collins/Loveland area was recently named the “fittest metropolitan area” in the nation last year, beating out Boulder by a slim margin. In fact, Colorado had four cities in the top 10, a distinction that no other state can claim.

TV Watching
Perhaps one of the main reasons that we’re such a fat country is because we can’t seem to pull ourselves away from the TV screen. The average American household watches more than 8 hours of TV per day.

Drug Use
Maybe we can’t stop eating and watching TV because we’re too high. According to a report by CBS News, the United States uses more illegal drugs than any other country on earth. Americans are the most likely to use marijuana, with more than 42 percent of adults reporting using the drug at least once. Americans are also four times more likely to use cocaine in their lifetimes than people in New Zealand, the next-closest country on the list.

Prison Population
Maybe we shouldn’t have left the house when we were so high because way too many of us are getting arrested and ending up in prison. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, the U.S. imprisons 756 out of every 100,000 residents. This one’s not even close! Russia, number two on the list, only throws 620 per 100,000 in jail and Rwanda 604.

Douglas Berman, law professor at Ohio State University, summed it up well when he said, “The chest-pounding about freedom and liberty that so many of our leaders do, both on the left and the right, seems inconsistent with this statistical anomaly. We live in a country conceived on the notion of liberty, but we lead the world in locking people up.”

Divorce Rates
Apparently getting sent to prison is pretty rough on a marriage. Perhaps that’s why we lead the world in divorce rates. Then again, maybe we get divorced more often simply because Americans also get married more than couples in any other country.

However, Sweden and Russia are catching up to our divorce rates. In fact, depending on who’s doing the counting, some results are already indicating that the U.S. has fallen behind these two.
Writing about all of this has kind of bummed me out. Good thing that the U.S. is number one in:

Consumption of anti-depressants
According to research conducted by the Archives of General Psychiatry, the number of children and adults in the U.S. taking anti-depressant drugs doubled in a single decade. Who knew that fat, stoned, divorced ex-cons watching reality TV could feel so blue?

Joe Vajgrt is a junior journalism major, who will now be more wary of snakes after finding out that Americans also have the highest rates of death by reptile. His column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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