Report blames lifestyle for northerners' shorter lives
If Sudburians simply cut out smoking, they'd live another 3.2 years. If they exercised, they'd live another 2.5 years. If they improved their diet, they'd live another 2.2 years.
If they avoided excessive alcohol consumption, they'd live another 1.4 years. If they cut out stress, they'd live another 0.3 years.
What's more, Nickel City residents, who have an average life expectancy of 80.8 years, are losing more years of life to unhealthy lifestyles compared to the average Ontarian.
The report, entitled “Seven More Years: The impact of smoking, alcohol, diet, physical activity and stress on health and life expectancy in Ontario,” says the average Ontarian is losing 7.5 years of life to these factors.
Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the medical officer of health in the Sudbury district, said the report should act as a “wake-up call” for those in the region.
“We know we shouldn't smoke, we know we should eat healthfully, we know we should be active,” she said.
“When you actually crunch the numbers, and you see that it could actually change the quality and length of life, I think it actually helps you get a more graphic picture.”
The reason why Sudburians are losing nearly an extra year of life compared to the provincial average is because our lifestyles are worse, she said. The same is also true in the rest of northern Ontario.
While individuals do bear some responsibility for improving their own lifestyles, these statistics aren't necessarily their fault, Sutcliffe said.
For example, those who live in downtown Toronto get more exercise than those who live in rural areas, because they're less dependent on cars to access essential services.
As well, healthy food costs more in northern Ontario than it does in southern areas of the province, making it out of reach for lower-income individuals, Sutcliffe said.
To improve these factors, work needs to be done to ensure that people are living in health-friendly communities, she said.
“It's not the health sector that's going to be able to make many of those decisions,” Sutcliffe said, adding that governments and community leaders can do much to change the way we live for the better.
For example, she said she's encouraged by Rainbow Routes, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to sustainable mobility through the development and promotion of active transportation routes in Greater Sudbury.
While the creation of bicycle and walking paths may seem like something that's just nice to do, Sutcliffe said it's actually critical to the community's health. It may even attract more people to the area, she said.
“When people relocate to Sudbury or Espanola, one of the things they look for in their community is how walkable it is,” Sutcliffe said.
“Am I going to be able to get from A to B without using my car all the time? If I take my kids out, is there a park to go to?”
More of the report's findings:
-Sixty per cent of Ontario deaths in 2007 were attributable to smoking, unhealthy alcohol consumption, poor diet, physical inactivity and high stress.
-Nearly all Ontarians reported at least one of the five unhealthy behaviours. Only 1.4 per cent had none.
-People with the unhealthiest behaviour for all five risks had much shorter life expectancy than people with none of the risks (68.5 years versus 88.6 for men; 71.5 years versus 92.5 for women).
-Ontarians in the most deprived neighbourhoods had a life expectancy nearly 4.5 years lower than those in the best socioeconomic conditions.
Posted by Arron Pickard