Unhealthy habits such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption reduced Canadians life expectancy by six years, according to a new study. The researchers found that unhealthy habits contribute to 50 percent of deaths in Canada.
"Unhealthy behaviors place a major burden on Canadian life expectancies," said lead author Dr. Doug Manuel, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at The University of Ottawa, and a senior core scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). "This study identified which behaviors pose the biggest threat."
Researchers analyzed data from ICES and the Statistics Canada 2009-2010 Canadian Community Health Survey.
The study found that 26% of all deaths are attributable to smoking, 24% to physical inactivity, 12% to poor diet and 0.4% to unhealthy alcohol consumption.
Smoking was the top risk factor for men, representing a loss of 3.1 years. For women, it was lack of physical activity, representing a loss of 3 years.
Canadians who followed recommended healthy behaviors had a life expectancy 17.9 years greater than individuals with the unhealthy habits.
"We hope this algorithm can help improve public health planning in the 100 countries around the world which already use population health surveys," said Dr. Heather Manson, Chief of Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention at Public Health Ontario. "Unlike many other tools being used today, our method can measure life expectancy for specific socio-demographic groups or for small changes in risk exposure."
"Our approach is a new way of measuring the impact of health problems on life expectancy," said Dr. Manuel. "In an era of big data, we should be moving beyond the old methods that have remained largely unchanged for the past 60 years."