On average, you make more than 200 decisions about food each day (1). However, you're only aware of a small fraction of them (1). The rest are performed by your unconscious mind and can lead to so-called mindless eating.
This article explores why mindless eating happens and what you can do to stop it.
1. Use Visual Reminders
Behavioral scientists believe one of the main reasons people overeat is because they rely on external rather than internal cues to decide if they feel hungry or full.
Naturally, this can lead you to eat more than you need to.
To demonstrate this point, researchers provided participants with an unlimited amount of chicken wings while they watched the American football Super Bowl.
Half of the tables were continuously cleaned while the bones were left to accumulate on the other tables. Interestingly, people with bones on their tables ate 34 percent less or two fewer chicken wings, than people who had their tables cleaned (2).
Another experiment used bottomless bowls to slowly refill some participants' soups as they ate. Participants who ate soup served in the bottomless bowls consumed about 113 extra calories—73 percent more—than those who ate from normal bowls (3).
Interestingly, those who ate more soup didn't feel more full. Most also estimated their calorie intake to be the same as those eating from the regular soup bowls (3).
These two studies show that people tend to rely on visual cues, such as chicken bones or the amount of soup left, to decide whether they're full or still hungry.
To make this natural tendency work in your favor, keep evidence of what you eat in front of you. Examples include the empty beer bottles you drank at a barbecue or the plates used for previous courses at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Bottom Line: Use visual reminders of the foods you eat to help you stay mindful of how much food you've already consumed.
2. Favor Smaller Packages
Another external cue that can cause you to overeat is the size of your food packaging.
In fact, eating from larger packages can lead you to mindlessly consume as much as 20–25 percent more calories (4).
Researchers confirmed this tendency by providing participants with small or large packages of spaghetti, ground beef and tomato sauce.
Those given the large packages prepared 23 percent more food than those given smaller packages. Interestingly, they also ate most of the extras, which amounted to an additional 150 calories (4).
Another study gave participants either a half-pound (227-gram) or one-pound (455-gram) bag of M&Ms. Those given the large bags ate 66 more M&Ms—an extra 264 calories—than those eating from the smaller bags (4).
However, packages that include pause points may help diminish this effect, since they give you time to decide if you should keep eating.
For example, participants eating potato chips from cans of Pringles in which every 7th or 14th chip was dyed red ate 43–65 percent fewer chips than those eating from cans with no dyed chips (5).
Similarly, people eating from a large bag of 200 M&Ms consumed 31 more candies—and 112 extra calories—than people given 10 small baggies of 20 M&Ms (6).
Bottom Line: Favoring smaller packages can help you reduce the amount of calories you consume by up to 25 percent without you even noticing it.
3. Use Smaller Plates and Taller Glasses
Studies show that people tend to eat 92 percent of the food they serve themselves.
Therefore, reducing the amount of food you serve yourself can make a significant difference to the amount of calories you consume (7).
One easy way to reduce portion sizes without noticing the change is to use smaller plates and taller glasses.
That's because big plates tend to make your food portions look small, encouraging you to serve yourself larger amounts of food.
Simply using 9.5-inch (24 cm) plates instead of 12.5-inch (32 cm) plates can help you easily eat up to 27 percent less food (7).
Additionally, studies show that using tall, thin glasses instead of wide, short ones can reduce the amount of liquids you pour yourself by up to 57 percent (8).
Therefore, pick wide, short glasses to help you drink more water and tall, thin ones to help you limit alcohol and other caloric beverages.
Bottom Line: Replacing large plates with smaller ones and wide, short glasses with tall, thin ones are two easy ways to reduce your portion sizes.
4. Decrease Variety
Research shows that having a wider variety of food options can lead you to eat up to 23 percent more (9).
Experts label this phenomenon “sensory-specific satiety."
The basic idea is that your senses tend to get numbed after you're exposed to the same stimulus many times—for instance, the same flavors (10).
Having a wide variety of flavors in the same meal can delay this natural numbing, pushing you to continue to eat.
Simply thinking there's more variety can also fool you. Researchers found that participants given bowls with 10 colors of M&Ms ate 43 more candies than those given bowls with 7 colors, despite all M&Ms tasting the same (11).
To help sensory-specific satiety work for you, try limiting your choices. For instance, pick only two appetizers at once during cocktail parties and stick to ordering the same drinks throughout the evening.
Bottom Line: Reducing the variety of flavors, colors and textures you're exposed to will help prevent you from eating more than your body needs.
5. Keep Some Foods Out of Sight
Researchers report that the popular saying, “out of sight, out of mind" applies particularly well to mindless eating.
To illustrate this point, one study gave secretaries Hershey's Kisses in covered bowls that were either clear, so they could see the candy, or solid, so they could not.
Those given clear bowls opened them to get candy 71 percent more often. They consumed an extra 77 calories per day on average, compared to the other group (12).
Scientists believe that seeing food pushes you to consciously decide whether to eat it. Seeing it more often increases the chances you'll choose to eat the food.
Make this work in your favor by hiding tempting treats while keeping healthy and nutritious food visible.
Bottom Line: Keep tempting treats out of sight to prevent you from eating them mindlessly.
6. Increase Your Inconvenience
The more work that's required to eat a food, the less likely you are to eat it.
To demonstrate this, researchers tried a new version of the Hershey's Kisses study above. This time, all secretaries were given clear bowls of candy.
The bowls were placed in three different spots around the office: on the desk, in a desk drawer or six feet (1.8 meters) away from the desk.
The secretaries ate an average of nine candies a day when the bowl was on the desk, six if the bowl was in the drawer and four if they had to walk to get to the bowl (13).
When asked why they ended up eating less when the bowls were placed further away, the secretaries stated that the extra distance gave them the time to think twice about whether they really wanted the candy.
Make this work for you by picking snacks that require some extra work or by keeping less nutritious snack foods out of reach.
Better yet, get in the habit of serving all foods on plates and eating only while sitting at the table. This inconvenience might be just what you need to keep yourself from mindlessly snacking out of boredom or while preparing dinner.
Bottom Line: Take the convenience out of eating. Adding extra steps will allow you to turn a mindless eating behavior into a conscious choice, reducing the chance of overindulgence.
7. Eat Slowly
Slow eaters tend to eat less, feel more full and rate their meals as more pleasant than fast eaters (14).
The extra time also allows the brain to realize you've eaten enough before you reach for that second serving (15).
Eating with your non-dominant hand or using chopsticks instead of a fork are two easy ways to reduce your eating speed and make this tip work for you. Chewing more often can also help.
Bottom Line: Slowing down your eating speed is an easy way to consume fewer calories and enjoy your meal more.
8. Unplug While You Eat
Eating while you're distracted can lead you to eat faster, feel less full and mindlessly eat more.
For instance, people watching television while eating their meals ate 36 percent more pizza and 71 percent more macaroni and cheese (20).
And, it seems that the longer the show, the more food you're likely to eat. One study noted that participants watching a 60-minute show ate 28 percent more popcorn than those watching a 30-minute show (21).
Luckily, this effect seems to apply to nutritious foods as well as junk foods, since participants watching the longer show also ate 11 percent more carrots (22).
Scientists note that longer distractions extend the amount of time spent eating, making you more likely to overeat. In addition, eating while distracted may push you to forget how much you've consumed, leading to overeating later in the day.
Indeed, another study noted that participants who played a computer game while eating lunch felt less full and snacked on nearly twice as many biscuits 30 minutes later, compared their non-distracted counterparts (23).
Bottom Line: Eating without using your TV, computer or smartphone may help decrease the amount of food your body needs to feel full and satisfied.
9. Choose Your Dining Companions Wisely
Eating with just one other person can push you to eat up to 35 percent more than when you eat alone. Eating with a group of seven or more can further increase the amount you eat by 96 percent (24, 25).
Scientists believe that this is especially true if you eat with family or friends, because it increases the time you spend eating, compared to when you eat by yourself.
The extra table time can push you to mindlessly nibble what's left on the plate while the rest of the group finishes their meal. It may also encourage you to order a dessert you normally wouldn't (26).
Luckily, sitting next to slow eaters or people who normally eat less than you can work in your favor, influencing you to eat less or more slowly (27).
Other ways to counter this effect include choosing in advance how much of your meal you want to consume or asking the server to remove your plate as soon as you're done eating.
Bottom Line: When dining in groups, sit next to people who eat less or at a slower speed than you. This can help prevent overeating.
10. Eat According to Your Inner Clock
Relying on external cues like the time of day to determine your level of hunger may lead you to overeat.
A study demonstrated this idea by isolating participants in a windowless room with a clock as their only time cue. This clock was then artificially controlled to run faster.
A great tip I give clients who have difficulty distinguishing physical from mental hunger is to ask themselves whether they'd readily eat an apple.
Remember, real hunger doesn't discriminate between foods.
Another telltale sign of mental hunger is a “taste" for something specific, such as a BLT sandwich. A craving for a specific food is unlikely to indicate real hunger.
Bottom Line: Rely on internal cues of hunger, rather than external ones, to decrease the likelihood of eating more than your body needs.
11. Beware Of “Health Foods"
Thanks to clever marketing, even foods labeled as healthy can push some of us to mindlessly overeat.
“Low-fat" labels are a prime example, because foods low in fat are not necessarily low in calories. For instance, “low-fat" granola is typically only 10 percent lower in calories than regular-fat granola.
Nevertheless, study participants given granola labeled as “low-fat" ended up eating 49 percent more granola than those provided with the normally labeled granola (29).
Another study compared calorie intake from Subway versus McDonald's. Those who ate at Subway consumed 34 percent more calories than they thought they did, while those who ate at McDonald's ate 25 percent more than they thought (30).
What's more, researchers noted that the Subway clients tended to reward themselves for their supposedly healthy meal choice by ordering chips or cookies with their meal (30).
This tendency to unconsciously overeat foods that are considered healthier, or compensate for them by having a side of something less healthy, is commonly known as the “health halo" (31).
Steer clear of the effects of the “health halo" by picking items based on their ingredients rather than their health claims.
Also, remember to pay attention to the side items you choose.
Bottom Line: Not all foods labeled as healthy actually are. Also, avoid picking less-than-healthy sides to accompany your healthy meal.
12. Do Not Stockpile
Research has shown that buying in bulk and stockpiling foods can push you to eat more (32).
A study investigated this effect by providing a group of normal-weight college students with four weeks of snacks. Some received a normal quantity of snacks, while others received double that quantity.
Participants who received the double portions ate 81 percent more calories from snacks per week than those who received the smaller snack portions (33).
Avoid falling for this effect by purchasing only what is necessary and trying not to buy snack foods for future events or unexpected visits.
Finally, if you really must stockpile items, make sure to keep the extra items well out of eyesight.
Bottom Line: Stockpiling foods increases the likelihood you'll eat them. Instead, get in the habit of buying only what is necessary for the week.
13. Maximize Food Volume
Eating large volumes of food tricks your brain into thinking you ate more, helping decrease the likelihood of overeating.
Researchers examined this effect by serving participants two smoothies identical in calories. However, one had air added to it. Those who drank the greater-volume smoothie felt fuller and ate 12 percent less at their next meal (34).
An easy way to add volume to your meals without increasing the calorie content is to pick high-fiber foods with a low energy density, such as vegetables.
A good rule of thumb to maximize food volume is to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables at each meal.
Bottom Line: High-volume foods help you feel full and decrease food intake at the next meal. Eating fiber-rich foods is an easy way to do this.
Take Home Message
These simple tips to reduce mindless eating should help you lose weight slowly, in a way that feels easy and can be maintained over the long term.
For the best results, choose just three of these tips and aim to apply them consistently for around 66 days—the average time it takes to create a habit (39).
Finally, to learn more about mindless eating, I strongly suggest reading the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.
You can also learn more about mindful eating in this article: Mindful Eating 101: A Beginner's Guide.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday.
Overall energy demand is expected to rise 4.6 percent this year compared to 2020 and 0.5 percent compared to 2019, according to the IEA's Global Energy Review 2021. Demand for fossil fuels is expected to jump to such an extent that emissions will rise by nearly five percent in 2021. This will reverse 80 percent of the emissions decline reported in 2020, to end emissions just 1.2 percent below 2019 emissions levels. Because the lockdown saw the biggest drop in energy demand since World War II, the projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions will still be the second-highest on record, BBC News pointed out.
"This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement reported by AFP.
Birol said much of that increase was being driven by the resurgence of coal use. In fact, coal demand is expected to increase by 60 percent more than all forms of renewable energy, according to the report. Overall coal demand is expected to increase by 4.5 percent in 2021. More than 80 percent of that growth is in Asia, and more than 50 percent is in China. While coal use is expected to increase in the U.S. and Europe as well, it will remain far below pre-pandemic levels. Still, global coal use is expected to rise to nearly its 2014 peak, BBC News reported.
Natural gas demand is also expected to rise by 3.2 percent in 2021, to put it more than one percent above 2019 levels, according to the report.
There are, however, two bright spots in the report from a climate perspective. The first is that oil demand, while up 6.2 percent from 2020, is still expected to remain around 3 percent below 2019 levels. This is because oil use for ground transportation is not expected to recover until the end of 2021, and oil use for air travel is expected to remain at 20 percent below 2019 levels by December of 2021.
"A full return to pre-crisis oil demand levels would have pushed up CO2 emissions a further 1.5%, putting them well above 2019 levels," the report authors wrote.
The second bright spot is that renewable energy demand is set to rise in all sectors in 2021. In power, where its rise is the greatest, it is set to increase by more than eight percent. This is "the largest year-on-year growth on record in absolute terms," the report authors wrote.
Renewable energy will provide 30 percent of electricity overall, BBC News reported, which is the highest percentage since the industrial revolution. The problem is that the increase in renewables is running parallel to an increase in fossil fuels in some places. China, for example, is also expected to account for almost half of the rise in renewable electricity.
"As we have seen at the country-level in the past 15 years, the countries that succeed to cut their emissions are those where renewable energy replaces fossil energy," energy expert and University of East Anglia professor Corinne Le Quéré told BBC News. "What seems to be happening now is that we have a massive deployment of renewable energy, which is good for tackling climate change, but this is occurring alongside massive investments in coal and gas. Stimulus spending post-Covid-19 worldwide is still largely funding activities that lock us into high CO2 emissions for decades."
To address this issue, Birol called on the world leaders gathering for U.S. President Joe Biden's climate summit Thursday and Friday to pledge additional action before November's UN Climate Change Conference, according to AFP.
"Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022," said Birol.
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The guide, 40-year-old Charles "Carl" Mock, was attacked Thursday while fishing alone in a forested area near West Yellowstone, Montana, The AP reported. He died in the hospital two days later. Wildlife officials killed the bear on Friday when it charged while they were investigating the attack.
"They yelled and made continuous noise as they walked toward the site to haze away any bears in the area," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote in a press release. "Before they reached the site, a bear began charging the group. Despite multiple attempts by all seven people to haze away the bear, it continued its charge. Due to this immediate safety risk, the bear was shot and died about 20 yards from the group."
The AP reported the bear to be an older male that weighed at least 420 pounds. Wildlife workers later found a moose carcass about 50 yards from the site of the attack.
"This indicates the bear was defending a food source during the attack," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote.
Mock was an experienced guide who worked for Backcountry Adventure, which provides snowmobile rentals and tours in Yellowstone National Park, according to The AP. His friend Scott Riley said Mock knew the risks of working around grizzly bears.
"He was the best guide around," Riley told The AP. "He had sight like an eagle and hearing like an owl... Carl was a great guy."
Mock carried bear spray, but investigators don't know if he had a chance to use it before the attack. Grizzly attacks are relatively rare in the Yellowstone area, CNN reported.
Since 1979, the park has welcomed more than 118 million visitors and recorded only 44 bear attacks. The odds of a grizzly attack in Yellowstone are about one in 2.7 million visits. The risk is lower in more developed areas and higher for those doing backcountry hikes.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advises being aware of surroundings, staying on trails, traveling in groups, making noise, avoiding animal remains, following food storage instructions and carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. Above all, it's important to back away slowly if a bear encounter occurs.
It's also important to pay attention to the time of year.
"Now is the time to remember to be conscientious in the backcountry as the bears are coming out of hibernation and looking for food sources," the sheriff's office of Gallatin County, Montana, wrote in a statement about the attack.
Historically, people pose more of a threat to grizzly bears than the reverse.
"When Lewis and Clark explored the West in the early 1800s, grizzly bears roamed across vast stretches of open and unpopulated land between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains," the U.S Fish and Wildlife service wrote. "But when pioneers moved in, bears were persecuted and their numbers and range declined. As European settlement expanded over the next hundred years, towns and cities sprung up, and habitat for these large omnivores — along with their numbers — shrunk drastically. Of the many grizzly populations that were present in 1922, only six remained when they were listed by the Service in 1975 as a threatened species in the lower-48 states."
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By Brett Wilkins
In the latest of a flurry of proposed Green New Deal legislation, Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday introduced the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021, a $1 trillion plan to "tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
If approved, the bill would provide federal funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to respond to the climate crisis, while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in communities disproportionately affected by economic inequality.
"St. Louis and communities across the nation need the Green New Deal for Cities," Bush (D-Mo.) said in a statement introducing the bill. The St. Louis native added that Black children in her city "are 2.4 times more likely than white children to test positive for lead in their blood, and are 10 times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma each year than white children."
"Black neighborhoods host the majority of the city's air pollution sources," Bush continued. "And there is a nuclear waste site—the West Lake Landfill, which is a catastrophe-in-progress."
"This legislation would make sure every city, town, county, and tribe can have a federally funded Green New Deal," she added. "This is a $1 trillion investment to tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
We're introducing the Green New Deal for Cities. Here's what it means for you: ☀️ $1 trillion investment in our c… https://t.co/uJnnbM5NNx— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@Congresswoman Cori Bush)1618852007.0
Specifically, the GND4Cities would:
- Authorize $1 trillion, with a minimum of 50% of all investments going each to frontline communities and climate mitigation;
- Fund an expansive array of climate and environmental justice projects including wind power procurement, clean water infrastructure, and air quality monitoring;
- Support housing stability by conditioning funding to local governments to ensure they work with tenant and community groups to prevent displacement in communities receiving investment; and
- Support workers by including prevailing wage requirements, equitable and local hiring provisions, apprenticeship and workforce development requirements, project labor agreements, and "Buy America" provisions.
In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio, Bush explained that the Green New Deal for Cities is personal for her.
"I remember talking about lead paint as a child, hearing about it on the television and showing up at parks and people testing us for lead," she recalled. "It was like this thing when I was a kid, and it just went away."
Tune in to @STLonAir at noon to hear @RepCori discuss her and her colleagues' proposal for a Green New Deal for Cit… https://t.co/q3N0hmJndg— St. Louis Public Radio (@St. Louis Public Radio)1618845961.0
Bush said that "this whole thing is about saving lives," adding that "there are labor provisions in this bill to make sure that the workers are well-paid and well-treated for work."
"The urgency of this climate crisis and environmental racism demands that we equip our cities and our local governments with this funding," she added.
In her statement introducing the measure, Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that "the GND4Cities would provide local governments the funding to create good-paying, union jobs repairing their infrastructure, improving water quality, reducing air pollution, cleaning up parks, creating new green spaces, and eliminating blight."
"The desire for these investments is there," Ocasio-Cortez added. "We need to give our local communities the funding and support to act."
Although only Monday, it's already been a busy week for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. Earlier in the day, she and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reintroduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing, which they said would significantly improve living conditions and costs for nearly two million people who reside in public housing units, while creating more than 240,000 new jobs.
It’s Green New Deal week!👷🏽♂️🌎 This week we’re highlighting: ✅ Green New Deal reintro tomorrow w/ new Congression… https://t.co/3kEllAc40y— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1618878563.0
Later on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced they will reintroduce their landmark 2019 Green New Deal bill on Tuesday. In a Spanish-language statement previewing the bill's introduction, Ocasio-Cortez said the measure "aims to create a national mobilization over the next 10 years that fights against economic, social, racial crises, as well as the interconnected climatic conditions affecting our country."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.
The industry has essentially recovered none of the pipelines laid in the Gulf in the last six decades; the abandoned infrastructure accounts for more than 97% of all of the decommissioned pipelines in the Gulf.
The pipelines pose a threat to the habitat around them, as maritime commerce and hurricanes and erosion can move sections of pipeline.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement does not conduct undersea inspections even though surface monitoring is "not always reliable for detecting ruptures," according to the GAO.
For a deeper dive:
The survey compared six environmental concerns: drinking water pollution; pollution in rivers, lakes and reservoirs; tropical rainforest loss; climate change; air pollution; and plant and animal species extinction. While most Americans showed concern for all of these threats, the majority were most worried about polluted drinking water (56 percent), followed by polluted rivers, lakes and reservoirs (53 percent), Gallup reported.
"When it comes to environmental problems, Americans remain most concerned about two that have immediate and personal potential effects," Gallup noted. "For the past 20 years, worries about water pollution – both drinking water and bodies of water — have ranked at the top of the list. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, laid bare the dangers of contaminated drinking water and no doubt sticks in the public's minds."
According to a new study, 61.4 million people in the U.S. did not drink their tap water as of 2018, Asher Rosinger, an assistant professor of biobehavioral health, anthropology and demography at Penn State, wrote in The Conversation.
"It's important not to blame people for distrusting what comes out of their tap, because those fears are rooted in history," Rosinger explained.
Meanwhile, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency surveys found that almost 50 percent of rivers and streams and more than one-third of lakes are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing and drinking, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported. Without action, concerns over water quality will become increasingly relevant as the demand for fresh water is expected to be one-third greater by 2050 than it is today.
Gallup researchers have tracked environmental concerns among Americans since 2000, and water quality worries have consistently ranked high, Gallup noted.
The survey also revealed an environmental partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans. For example, 68 percent of Democrats were highly concerned about global warming compared to 14 percent of Republicans.
Another recent Gallup survey found that 82 percent of Democrats believed that global warming effects had already started compared to 29 percent of Republicans. "That's a gap of 53 points; for comparison, in 2001, the gap was a mere 13 points," Grist reported.
Similarly, a 2020 Pew Research Center report revealed the widest partisan gap to date concerning whether or not climate change should be a top policy priority. Protecting air and water quality ranked as the second most divisive issue among Republicans and Democrats, The New York Times reported.
"Intense partisan polarization over these two issues in particular" has been growing for decades, Riley Dunlap, a professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University, told The New York Times last February. "Voters take cues on their policy preferences and overall positions," he added. "President Trump has, in the past, called climate change a hoax and all that. You get a similar message from many members of Congress on the Republican side. And most importantly, it's the message you get from the conservative media."
Gallup's latest figures also showed that concern about environmental threats either increased or remained the same between 2019 and 2020.
"The fluctuations in worry levels since 2019 are largely driven by Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, who became more worried, on average, about the six environmental problems in 2020 during the presidential campaign and are now less worried with Joe Biden as president," Gallup reported.
While surveys like these are "not a full-blown diagnostic rundown of the nation's psyche," they are informative tools for understanding how and what Americans are feeling and thinking, Grist reported.