PHIRN: Population Health Improvement Research Network

Ontarians cutting their lifespan by 7.5 years - Toronto Star

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toronto star logoPaul Irish
Published On Mon Apr 02 2012

What's your poison?

A new study says unhealthy habits are costing Ontarians 7.5 years of life and the findings point to five culprits: smoking, alcohol, poor diet, inactivity and stress.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that by eliminating — or at least reducing — one of the sins, we could turn things around.

The results were gathered from research by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Public Health Ontario, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa.

Individually, if we all make one change like smoking less or being more physically active, then collectively we would be significantly healthier and live much longer,says Doug Manuel, lead author and senior scientist at ICES and senior scientist at OHRI.

Overall, Ontarians would gain 7.5 years of life expectancy if everyone were in the healthiest category for all five behavioural risks examined. Smoking, physical activity and a poor diet each contributed 2 to 2.5 years of lost life expectancy.

He says there's just a small percentage of Ontarians who fit in the top bracket of health for all five risk categories.

Manuel says that information programs and the ensuing shift in the perception of smoking have lowered the risk factor of the habit to the same level as poor diet and lack of physical activity.

He called this good news, but cautioned that health experts agreed it must go even lower. The research found that if we all modified only our most detrimental health risk, overall expectancy would jump by up to 3.7 years.

Everybody has that one issue they know they can address, be it lowering their stress or (adding) a bit more exercise,he says.They don't even have to go all the way . . . but at least change

The study found:

  • 60 per cent of all deaths in Ontario are attributable to the five risks;
  • Almost all Ontarians have at least one of the risks;
  • Increasing physical activity and improving diet are the most common changes that Ontarians could make to improve their health;
  • Improving healthy behaviour will not only improve length of life, but also the quality of life.
The impact that modifiable behaviours have on our health is astounding,says Manuel, who is also affiliated with ICES@uOttawa and is an associate professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of Ottawa.Not only will we increase our life expectancy but being healthier will mean there will be fewer demands on both formal care giving like hospitals and informal care like family.

The ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues.

So, how healthy are you? And how long do you think your lifestyle will affect your longevity?

calculator Try The Life Expectancy Calculator

 

Source: Toronto Star

 

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Seven More Years: The impact of smoking,

alcohol, diet, physical activity and stress on

health and life expectancy in Ontario

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Listen to Douglas Manuel as he answers questions from callers about the
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