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Bad lifestyle habits will put you into hospital

Written by: Megan Gillis, Ottawa Sun
May. 29, 2014

Sun file photo


Nearly a third of the days Ontarians spend in pricey hospital beds are due to our puffing smokes, skipping fruits and veggies, boozing too much and moving too little.

We know it’s bad for us and now there’s proof it’s landing us in the hospital, according to a groundbreaking new study led by Dr. Doug Manuel of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

“You don’t want to be in hospital. You’re sick if you’re in hospital,” he said. “There’s still quite a lot of people who are like, it’s OK if I have unhealthy behaviour, I’m OK about dying earlier if I’m having a good time.

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“Well, you’re not always going to have a good time, you’re going to be in hospital. You’re not going to dodge the bullet.”

Scientists often struggle to explain their findings, but this one is “pretty understandable for people,” Manuel said.

They can even go to projectbiglife.ca to plug in their own stats for an estimate of how long they’ll spend on earth and in hospital — like the 54-year-old with the worst habits who spends as much time in a hospital bed as a 75-year-old with the best habits.

Also easy for taxpayers to understand is that those hospital stays cost the province’s health care system $1.8 billion in 2011, according to the study which crunched health surveys of 79,477 Ontarians with their hospital use.

Nearly all reported at least one unhealthy habit — only one in 14 had none.

While less than 20% of us still smoke, it had the biggest impact. There are at least 50 diseases linked to tobacco, but it affects everything — smokers even have more complications from knee replacement, for example.

The numbers can be used to fuel discussion on the balance between focussing on prevention and hospitals in healthcare, Manuel said.

“As Ontario works towards a community model that provides the right health care in the right setting, gains in public health are essential,” Ottawa Hospital CEO Dr. Jack Kitts said.

The study also bolsters the case for relatively-cheap moves like nutrition labeling for restaurant food as health promoters aim to make “healthy choices the easy choices,” Manuel said.

“It’s definitely about the environment that we create, not only so you can live a healthy lifestyle but a whole package of the social and physical environment and how it contributes to your health.”

Twitter: @ottawasun_megan

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