A new report from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario concluded that smoking, excess alcohol consumption, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and stress can all collectively decrease your lifespan by seven and a half years.
It’s a staggering number. Unfortunately, the average person fails to understand the full impact of lifestyle choices by individuals.
It is not hard to find someone who smokes, drinks too much, eats badly, is inactive and is constantly stressed. These individuals have a life expectancy of 68.5 years for men and 71.5 years for women compared to people with healthy lifestyles who don’t smoke, have an occasional drink and exercise routinely, sweating away the stress who have a life expectancy of 88.6 years for men and 92.5 years for women. The roughly 20-year difference reflects the best-case scenario (no bad habits) versus the worst (all five bad habits).
The report did indicate that lifestyle choices are just part of the equation. There are other factors to consider such as one’s income, education, employment, stable housing and physical environment which all have a tremendous impact on health and life expectancy.
The new report goes on further noting that people living in Ontario’s poorest neighborhoods have a life expectancy that is 4.5 years less than those in wealthier neighborhoods, a significant “equity gap.”
What is interesting, is that the new report comes with an online tool, one that allows individuals to calculate the impact of their lifestyle choices and they don’t have to be all or none.
For example, a 40-year-old non-smoker who drinks moderately and eats consciously but can’t find time to exercise, for example, can, with a few clicks, see that finding time to be active an hour a day, could add five years to his or her life expectancy.
The good news is that the report did show that small changes can have a big payoff in life expectancy and quality of life which should be motivating to many.