Watch above: Mike Le Couteur takes a look at the four unhealthy habits are costing us the most money and taking years off our lives.
TORONTO – Smoking. Skipping exercise. Unhealthy eating. Excessive drinking. We know these habits are bad for us, but now doctors have developed an online calculator to warn Canadians of just how many days we’re stuck in hospital because of these tendencies.
Try out the online calculator here
In Ontario alone, Canadians are sent to hospital a total of 900,000 days each year, according to the study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.
“From 2001 to 2012, we found that nearly one of every three days Ontarians spent in a hospital bed could be attributed to smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet and unhealthy alcohol consumption,” Dr. Doug Manuel, the lead author, said.
“What struck us was the magnitude of it. I was caught off guard by the large numbers,” Manuel told Global News.
He’s a senior scientist at ICES and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. He’s also a family doctor. Manuel said he was tasked by several public health agencies to look at the business case for prevention – these 900,000 days in hospital are tied to $1.8 billion a year. Would breaking these bad habits be a cheaper avenue to consider?
Manuel scoured the health data and Statistics Canada survey responses of nearly 80,000 Ontarians between 2001 and 2005. They were asked about how often they exercised, if they smoke, drank and watched what they ate. The respondents’ hospital use was tracked to see if there was any link to the four health risks – the researchers say it’s the first time the habits have been assessed as a group.
“We found that a 54-year-old Ontarian with the unhealthiest behaviours for all four risks had the same hospital use as the average 75-year-old Ontarian with none of the risks,” Manuel said.
The study also found that smoking had the greatest impact on hospital use, followed by lack of exercise and poor diet.
Manuel said the study’s findings are timely: right now, Canada’s health resources are strapped for time and money.
“Now that we know the numbers, we can start using them for planning. One-third of hospital bed days could be avoided in Ontario and that could probably translate across Canada,” he said.
Manuel and his team created an online calculator to help Canadians estimate their life expectancy based on how they approach these four bad habits. If you’re curious, plug in your answers to questions about your diet and exercise and see how long they’re estimating you’ll live. You’ll also have a glimpse at how often you’ll be in hospital based on your habits.
The full study was released on Thursday.