We asked this question – and two others – of Illahee people on Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday we had eighty seven responses, which we summarize below. We also received twenty-six comments, ranging from “you forgot about coffee, chocolate, pets, or reading” to some very personal and eloquent thoughts about addiction. We’re not posting those, to protect people’s privacy, but thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. So, the results:
We didn’t restrict respondents to just one addiction, so as you might expect, people claim multiple addictions. We were expecting the most commonly recognized addictions to rise to the top: alcohol, drugs, food, gambling. Instead, internet addiction led the way along with food. Is the Internet really an addiction? If you took it away, would people really suffer withdrawl or would they just find something else to do? More on that later when we summarize Susan Cheever’s Wednesday 18 March talk. Another surprise: fewer than 20% of us are addiction-free, at least as self-reported in this survey. The rarity of some addictions also surprised us. Gambling – 0% (not a lot of lotto-players here). Text messaging – 1% (maybe this is more prevalent in the 14-to-25 year-old demographic). Lifestyle – 1% (we’ll make an argument in another post that many of us are addicted to a lifestyle of consumption).
What about our tendencies to be addicted or not? The answers seem to imply that Illahee respondents are pretty realistic about their tendency for addiction. Assuming a random sample, which we don’t have with only 87 respondents drawn form a self-selected population, you’d expect something like a bell curve. A skew in either direction would imply a “Lake Wobegon effect” (where all the children are above average) or in our case, where all the Illahee people are less or more addiction-prone than average. There seems to be a slight skew to the “I’m OK” side of addiction, but for the most part, we look pretty realistic about our tendencies.
One discrepency: Twenty percent of respondents say they have no addiction problem, but over forty percent say they’re less or much less likely to be addicted than other people.
And finally, the question of how addiction has affected respondents’ lives. This is really complex and interesting. Again we see about 20% of respondents saying that their lives have been relatively addiction-free, which means that nearly 80% of us have been affected by addiction in some way. Does it make sense that 8% of respondents say their addiction has affected others, while 28% of respondents say that other’s addictions have affected them?
What about this one? Ten percent of respondents say their addiction has affected their ability to function, 20% say it hasn’t, and nearly 40% say they’re managing their addiction. What’s going on here? First of all, this implies that 70% of our respondents have some addiction issue, which is more or less consistent with the 22% who say they don’t have an addiction issue. It’s also in rough agreement with the response to our first question, in which 20% say they have no addiction. But what about the breakdown of this 70% that’s dealing with addiction? Only a small fraction say that addiction has affected their ability to function. The rest say they’re dealing with it, or it’s not really affecting their ability to function. But it looks like these “functioning addicts” might want to talk with the 28% of people who say “others’ addictions have affected me.” Without a bigger sample size, more detailed cross-referenced questions, and follow-up with respondents, we can’t really tease this apart. But we can say this: addiction is an important part of a lot of people’s lives. We ignore it at our peril.