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French lead world in eating and sleeping

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It's official: The bleedin' French spend more of their time crashed out or eating than any other nation in the 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries.

This non-shock revelation - confirming long-held Brit suspicions that our Gallic cousins do little more than stuff their faces with roast songbirds before retiring for a recuperative nap - comes from the OECD's Society at a Glance 2009, which offers an "overview of social trends and policy developments".

In fact, so overfed and indolent are the French that they spend "nearly double" the time noshing than that enjoyed by Americans, Canadians or Mexicans, while they also avail themselves of a daily hour more atop a mattress than the poor old Japanese.

The OECD culled this unsuprising news from 2006 "time-use surveys" which are "based on nationally representative samples of between 4,000 and 200,000 people".

Other findings include the disclosure that "Norwegians spend just over a quarter of their time on leisure, the highest among OECD countries, while Mexicans spend just 16 per cent, the lowest".

Norway is evidently a unisex leisure paradise, because males and females are pretty well equal when it comes to leisure time - which suggests blokes are chipping in with the housework. Italian women, however, are left to fend for themselves, while their husbands avail themselves of 80 minutes more daily dossing about than their hard-working other halves.

Of course, in many countries a good whack of this free time is spent slumped in front of the telly, with Japan and Mexico topping the league at almost 50 per cent. New Zealanders are the least TV-addicted, dedicating just 25 per cent of spare hours viewing the idiot's lantern.

Yes yes, we hear you cry, but what about Blighty? Well, among the eye-openers in the OECD summary (pdf) is that "mothers in the United Kingdom have their first child at a later age than anyone else in the OECD" (average 29.8 years, to be exact).

This, of course, debunks the myth that this Sceptr'd Isle is packed to the gunwales with 13-year-old shoplifting single mums who got up the duff while unconscious on alcopops.

Nonetheless, underage drinking "is a big problem in the United Kingdom". In 2005-6, "one in three girls aged between 13 and 15 said they got drunk regularly" while 32 per cent of lads of the same age admitted to overdoing the booze.

The reason? The OECD offers a clue: "Youth with nothing to do: With around one in ten male teenagers not in education, employment or training, the United Kingdom has the second highest rate in the OECD, after Italy." ®

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