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Unhealthy habits are costing Ontarians 7.5 years of life

Study examines impact of smoking, alcohol, diet, physical activity and stress Toronto, ON, April 2, 2012 – Unhealthy habits are costing Ontarians 7.5 years of life. However, by reducing five unhealthy behaviours Ontarians could become the healthiest people in the entire country. New research from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Public Health Ontario (PHO), the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa (uOttawa) shows 60 per cent of deaths in Ontario are attributed to smoking, alcohol, poor diet, lack of physical activity and stress but suggests Ontarians could make remarkable gains in life expectancy if we all collectively made changes towards healthier living.

“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 inactivity and poor diet each contribute 2 to 2.5 years of lost life expectancy. If everyone modified only their most important health risk, overall life expectancy would increase by up to 3.7 years.

“The evidence shows that these five risk factors steal both years from our lives and quality from our lives”, says Dr. Vivek Goel, President and CEO of PHO. “If we want sustained improvements in health, we need to focus our collective efforts on reducing these risk factors, both individually and at a population health level.”

The study found:

  • 60 per cent of all deaths in Ontario are attributable to five risks
  • Almost all Ontarians have at least one of the five 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 amount of healthy life

“The impact that modifiable behaviours have on our health is astounding. 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,” says Manuel, who is also affiliated with ICES@uOttawa and is an Associate Professor in Faculty of Medicine at uOttawa.

Author block: Manuel DG, Perez R, Bennett C, Rosella L, Taljaard M, Roberts M, Sanderson R, Meltem T, Tanuseputro P, Manson H.

Seven More Years: The impact of smoking, alcohol, diet, physical activity and stress on health and life expectancy in Ontario. An ICES/PHO Report is being published April 2, 2012.

More detailed study findings on the ICES website at: www.ices.on.ca and on the Public Health Ontario website: www.oahpp.ca/sevenmoreyears.html

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

Public Health Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health of all Ontarians and reducing inequities in health. As a hub organization, Public Health Ontario links public health practitioners, front-line health workers and researchers to the best scientific intelligence and knowledge from around the world. For more information about Public Health Ontario, visit www.oahpp.ca.

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with the University’s Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. The OHRI includes more than 1,500 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. Research at OHRI is supported by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. www.ohri.ca. ​​​​​

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