Yesterday, Yahoo linked to an article reporting the results of a recent study. The study found that people who lived close to a big-box retailer (such as Wal-Mart) weighed on average .5 pounds less than the general population; people who lived close to a big-box retailer that included a grocery store weighed on average .18 pounds less. Researchers concluded that people who live close to such stores save money on daily necessities and therefore have more money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, which improves their health; this is particularly true for lower-income families, whose quality of life is impacted by even small savings.
Unfortunately, the article failed to report the more interesting findings of this study. First of all, people who have cats were found to eat 1.7% less ice cream than the general population. Since ice cream is a stereotypical comfort food, researchers speculate that having a cat reduces people's stress level, thereby improving their health.
The second interesting finding: people who live within .75 miles of a duck pond are 2.13% more likely to consider pursuing a degree in philosophy. This statistic suggests that people who spend time observing the natural world are more likely to speculate about the nature of existence and engage in abstract critical thinking.
Dr. Samuel Smith, who designed the study, hopes that this new research will prompt change. "I urge Congress to offer tax incentives to cat owners in order to help fight obesity," he said. "I also encourage local government officials and neighborhood associations to allocate more of their funds to the creation and preservation of duck ponds to encourage the critical thinking skills needed by our children in order to become a successful leaders of tomorrow."