I have been listening to "The Science of Fear" by Daniel Gardner (on Craig's recommendation, thanks again!). It has been really good so far and has enlightened me on the various industries who have a vested interest in fear. We basically live in the safest, healthiest society so far, yet people are more fearful than ever. Why is this?
Fear is profit and with the most advanced marketing research available, you can bank on being scared (and so can they). For example, if crime rates are going down, then we don't need as big of a police budget for next year. If people diet and exercise regularly, then they wouldn't need to buy as many drugs from the pharmaceutical companies to protect them from evil diseases. I hope this also brings various political campaigns to mind as well. There are a lot of people who stand to profit from the public being afraid of whatever suits their interests. It is our responsibility to investigate and see if these risks are really as scary as the news and advertisers would have us believe.
Ironically, boring things like driving in a car, heart disease, or swimming in a pool are much more of a threat than most things portrayed on the news from a statistical standpoint (e.g., restless leg syndrome, shark attacks, or road rage). Imagine the following headline, "Crime is decreasing and people are living longer than ever. Sleep tight America....." Boring! If I had cable I would change the channel.
This got me thinking on a broader scale. It would seem to me that being happy and content with who you are and what you have in life would make you less likely to be manipulated by various types of salesmen. Life is pretty good, at least for me. If I am "OK" and not upset about anything in particular, I have no need to search for an appropriate resolution. However if I am afraid of some new illness, political issue, or just plain death, I will be more likely to talk to my doctor about the pills on TV, support some politician's cause, or go to church. Concern should ideally be proportional to the actual statistical risk associated with a claim, not the perceived risk.
You are the only person who can benefit from the following motto, "Don't worry, be happy." Well, you and Bobby Mcferrin :)