Bless your heart to the people who jump to conclusions before knowing the background of things. And would rather bash...

Janet Storm: Is it a sin to wallow in senseless studies?


Janet Storm

Sunday, February 25, 2018

When you work at a newspaper, one thing you can count on is an email box full of research studies.

That’s not surprising. Here in America, we seem to study everything. The cause of ice cream brain freeze? Got it covered. The top beaches in the United States? Done. States with the best dental health? You can bet someone has compiled a list.

More complicated topics — childhood poverty, national obesity, housing shortages — trigger a raft of studies, examining every angle of the problem. 

Some of these studies are useful, others less so. I confess that lot of the research sent to me winds up in my email trash can.

Still, I can’t help clicking on some studies. The latest to reel me in was 2018’s Most Sinful States in America. I was curious what criteria the researchers used to make that call.

It turns out that the ranking were based on the seven deadly sins — Anger, jealousy, greed, lust, vanity, laziness and excess. Fair enough, but how are such things quantified? That’s where the study got interesting — and a bit controversial.

Some categories made sense to me. Statistics on anger were compiled using the state’s violent crime rate. Lust was tallied by looking at the number of people who view pornography. Excess was based on the number of people who had drinking or drug addictions and the laziness title went to states with the highest number of inactive adults.

But others seemed like a stretch, at best. Jealousy was based on most thefts per capita. Greed was tied to the percent of the population with gambling disorders. And vanity was decided by the states with the highest number of beauty salons. Does wanting a decent haircut really mean a state’s residents are vain?

It also seems unfair to link gambling disorders with greed, when many experts indicate that sort of addiction has more to do with poor impulse control and coping skills. And do people really steal because they are jealous of what other people have? How do you account for well-heeled shoplifters who snatch stuff for the thrill of it?

By the standards of that particular study, Florida is America’s most sinful state. It ranked high in jealousy, vanity, lust and laziness while coming in lower for anger, greed and excess. Considering the number of retirees in the sunshine state, it might be a little unfair to pick on its residents for being inactive. But flaws aside, at least we can breath a sigh of relief that North Carolina didn’t take the top spot.

In fact, the Tar Heel state is dead center, as the 25th most sinful state. We made the top 10 for lust and the top 20 for vanity, jealousy and laziness. We’re at 21 for excess, but toward the bottom of the pack for greed and anger. So we’ve got that going for us.

I like to think North Carolina has enough flaws to make it interesting, but not so many that we have to worry about the state’s shot at redemption. Sorry, Florida.

If you’d like to avoid trouble altogether, I’d suggest a stop in Vermont. The study ranks it as the least sinful spot in the United States. I’ve been to Vermont, and I am not surprised. It’s a pretty place, but you won’t find many casinos or fancy hair salons. And laziness is not an option when you have a lot of snow to shovel.

Maybe we ought to do a study on who is paying for all these studies. I detect a whiff of greed and laziness in their compilation. Maybe some vanity as well. We could rank the studies as to how fast they hit an editor’s trash can.

Click, delete. My inbox is purged of sin once more.

Contact Janet Storm at jstorm@reflector.com or 252-329-9587.