10 Of Life’s Biggest Little Questions
1. Are You Having Enough Sex?
Too much: 20 times a month
Your risk of later-life prostate cancer is, well, rampant.
– University of Nottingham
Just right: 8-15 times
Regular “vitamin S” boosts immunity by around a third.
– New England Research Institutes
Too little: Once a
Barely getting any can double your risk of a heart attack.
– American Journal of Cardiology
2. Are You Addicted
To Your Phone?
Not medically, as there’s no official diagnosis. Yet. But according to Dr David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, up to 20% of people show compulsive smartphone behaviour. The phone hooks you because every buzz in your pocket sparks a dopamine boost, and you don’t know when it’s going to come or how rewarding it will be. “It’s exactly the same schedule of reinforcement that a slot machine works on,” says Greenfield. World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck recently called South Africa a “nation of screen-checkers”, while a recent US survey found one in 10 Americans had used their phone during sex (and not for a spot of Paris Hilton-esque cinematography).
If you think you’re addicted, follow these steps to unplugging yourself. First, disable vibrations. “Every update is drugging you up,” says Greenfield. Turn off your alerts for all non-essentials, never enter your home looking at an app and buy an alarm clock – using your phone to wake up means taking it to bed every night. Then, when you go into a restaurant, leave it in the car. You’ll enjoy your steak more if it doesn’t go cold while you Instagram it.
3. Is Gaming Turning You Into A Criminal?
It might, if you’re bad at it. A recent Oxford University study found violent video games had little effect on players, but awkward controls and difficult levels significantly raised aggression. Our advice? Fire up Grand Theft Auto. Not only are the controls a cinch, Michigan State University research found behaving immorally in a game can make you a better person in real life, increasing your “moral sensitivity”. Game on.
4. Can You Afford Children?
Got R33 000? Go for it. That’s what Discovery Health recommend as a pre-baby budget (including nappies, medical costs, feeding equipment, etc), based on what they call “a realistic breakdown of all the costs you need to consider before the arrival of your newborn”. Note the word “before”. Junior’s expense account is only going to increase from there. The total cost of raising a child in a middle-class family from birth to age 18 is, according to official government estimates, an eye-watering R1 681 470. So that’s R 7 785 a month. Good luck, Daddy.
5. Can Illegal Drugs Improve Your Health?
Yes, says bioethicist Professor Richard Wiseman, but only if you have a condition that demands their prescription. Ketamine and heroin are anaesthetics, and doctors once doled out cocaine for toothache. Recreational drugs have been linked to more direct medical benefits – studies have found cannabis and MDMA could ease anxiety and PTSD. Cannabinoid molecules like THC are potent cancer-fighting agents, reports Anticancer Research, although their link to depression should make you think before blazing up.
6. Can You Out Swim A Shark?
Briefly. Sharks cruise at around 2.4km/h, according to the ReefQuest centre – roughly a third of the pace of an Olympic swimmer. But a charging Great White can hit speeds 15 times that, at which point even Michael Phelps would be fish food. Fortunately, sharks don’t attack humans deliberately, says conservationist Richard Peirce. If you spot one, breaststroke’s a better bet than front crawl. “Move as calmly as possible with minimum splashing.” You can’t outpace it, so don’t attract it. If it does investigate you, forget any nose- punching myths. “Look it in the eyes,” says Peirce. Sharks are ambush predators so staring will unnerve it. Then stay still and try not to look like a seal (coloured wetsuits help) until it gets bored and swims off.
7. When Should You Trust Your Gut?
“Never,” says Gary Klein, a psychologist who specialises in decision making. “Our intuition is not perfect, and it can mislead us.” Your brain picks up unconscious cues from the environment, applies them to situations you’ve already experienced and then provides a solution. Handy when you’re on the pitch and make a snap decision on what shot to play. Less so if you hire someone because you got a good “vibe” from them. But that doesn’t mean you should block out intuition completely. “Analyse your decisions to interfere with what your gut is telling you.” Pinpoint why your hunch is leading you to a certain outcome. Does the candidate’s experience match a previous employee who left after two months? Or does he just have the same beard? “It gives you a sense, which may be wrong,” says Klein. “You shouldn’t trust it, but you should listen to it.”
8. Can You Be Batman?
Unlike other superheroes, Bruce Wayne’s only powers are his muscle strength and salary. Technically, anyone can have a stab at it. But, says kinesiologist E Paul Zehr, a Batsuit won’t spare you “the jarring of the body and the brain” which comes with fighting evil. Zehr draws parallels with MMA fighters who can experience debilitating mental problems. “You could probably be Batman for two years, maximum.” Protect your head with creatine, which is shown to counteract henchman-inflicted head trauma.
9. Should You
China’s ascendancy might tempt you to tackle “the hardest language in the world”. But according to the US State Department, competence takes 2 200 hours – half spent in a native-speaking country. Unless you’re moving to Beijing, it’s just not worth it. But learning another tongue is – because being bilingual can raise your earning potential by a fifth. If English is all you speak, think laterally, says Fluent in 3 Months author Benny Lewis. “Learn Esperanto first, for two weeks,” he says. Developed to be a universal language, it’s easy to pick up and research suggests it increases your ability to tackle other tongues by up to 50%. Head to lernu.net for free lessons or visit duolingo.com for Spanish, German, French and more.
10. Will Being Happy Make Me Live Longer?
By Tom Banham