I have been told with much authority that this province has the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the highest obesity rate and the highest happiness index in North America.
I never checked this because I loved that image too much to ruin it with facts. I describe my Newhomeland to people back in The States as “the fattest, fuckingest, happiest place in the world!”
But after the Knausgaard Kerfuffle of February 2015 (in which our massive panties were bunched by one man pointing out that there were fat people in a Jungle Jim’s restaurant in St Anthony), I decided to take off my rose-coloured beer goggles and find out what we actually are. For STIs, we aren’t even in the top tier nationally for rates of Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, and Syphilis. The myth that we have the highest rate of HIV infection is also not true and seems traceable to a fluke 40-person outbreak in CBS between 1990-1995 that made national news.
What about obesity? Yes. We are the most overweight. But the more relevant question is, what ABOUT obesity? Seriously. Fat does not equal poor health, and even if it did (which it does not), health does not equal Nirvana, which is the ultimate goal here, right? But our health is not great; blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, pain and discomfort are all well above the national average. Our lifestyle choices include high rates of smoking and drinking, and vegetable consumption that is about half the national average. As far as actual happiness (“life satisfaction”), we are about average.
I think you have heard this all before and I am not dredging it up to re-shame us or even to motivate us. I am here to point out where this gets more interesting: Our perception of ourselves. Newfoundland has the second highest “perceived health” and “perceived mental health” in Canada. We have the LOWEST perceived life stress. We also have, statistically, a strong sense of community and belonging (behind only Nunavut and the NWT).
So where does that leave us? Basically, we are relaxed and unaware of our failings. I would like to unscientifically argue that is about as close to Nirvana as we may get in this life and that our drinking, comfort eating, and general bad habits, are to thank. I have never been in a place that cares less about what you do and where you are headed or that cares more about having a laugh. Is your career just some shitty day job? Fair enough. Is your finest goal a three-day-weekend kitchen-party-snowboil? As it should be.
Are there things we could change and fix and improve? Yes. but then, if we did, we would lose the very jewel in our fat crown: our outstanding ability to turn our backs on ambition, and laugh our drunk faces off together as if we had not a care in this miserable old world.