How Healthy are Canadians?

Being healthy means different things for different people. However, most of us would agree that it involves a sense of mental and physical well-being. Many factors influence our health, such as our genes, our lifestyles and our environment, to name a few. Health is a state of being but also a resource for everyday life. So, how healthy are Canadians? To find out, we examined health data and indicators from the past 10 to 15 years. This is what we learned.

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Source: Canadian Health Measures Survey (2012-2013), Canadian Community Health Survey (2014).
5-17/12-19 18-34/20-34 35-49/35-44 50-64/45-64 65-79/65+
Obesity 12.6 21 29.2 29.6 26
Physical Inactivity 90.7 63.8 82 83.3 88.2
Unhealthy Eating 56.4 61.0 60.2 63.6 56.8
Heavy Drinking 10.9 30.6 19.7 15.5 6.0
Daily or Occasional Smoking 7.8 24.3 20.3 19.9 9.3
Source: Canadian Cancer Registry, Chronic Disease and Injury Indicator Framework (2015 update), Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS). Notes: *Cancer data available to 2009.
Cancer (all) Asthma Diabetes COPD IHD Stroke Hypertension Mood and Anxiety Disorders
0-19 0.1 15.3 0.3 n/a n/a n/a n/a 3.3
20-34 0.3 11.4 1.1 n/a 0.2 0.1 1.7 10.6
35-49 1.1 8.4 4.5 2.8 1.8 0.6 10.6 12.8
50-64 3.7 8.5 12.5 9.0 8.6 2.1 31.8 12.8
65-79 9.5 9.7 24.6 17.7 24.1 7.0 61.8 11.2
80+ 11.2 10.3 26.1 25.4 39.5 16.9 78.6 11.4

Here is what we did...


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We looked at data from the last 10 to 15 years on the four major chronic diseases (heart disease and stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes) as well as mood and/or anxiety disorders. We also studied risk factors that are modifiable – or within our control to change - like smoking, eating unhealthy foods, not getting enough physical activity, being sedentary for long stretches of time and using alcohol excessively.

Risk factors increase your chances of developing a disease.
Risk factors are either modifiable, meaning you can change them (like a behaviour), or non-modifiable, which means they cannot be changed (like a person's genetics and age).

After much number crunching, the data tell us that Canadians are generally healthy. We are living longer than our grandparents and great-grandparents and our overall health is similar to that of other developed countries. That said, many Canadians experience poor health. Chronic diseases cause 65% of the deaths in Canada each year. Although most often diagnosed in older age groups, chronic diseases could affect everyone.

Here is what we found...


The good news

Canadians are living longer and the difference in life expectancy between men and women is decreasing. The death rate for heart disease is considerably lower than before, thanks in large part to the important decrease in the number of people who smoke.

The bad news

More than 1 in 5 Canadian adults lives with a major chronic disease. As well, in the past 10 years, cancer surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death in Canada.

Did you know?

  • 2.7 million Canadians are living with diabetes (types 1 and 2 combined), and that number keeps rising.
  • 2.3 million Canadians are living with heart disease.
  • Almost 2 million Canadians are living with a chronic respiratory disease.
  • Between 1999 and 2009, more than 800,000 Canadians received a cancer diagnosis.
  • There is a strong link between mental health and chronic disease: 1 in 25 Canadians over the age of 20 say they live with a mood and/or anxiety disorder and a major chronic disease.

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Let's recap

Canadians are living longer, but many working–age Canadians are affected by a mood or anxiety disorder, and many live with one or more major chronic diseases. Levels of physical inactivity, sedentary behaviours and obesity continue to be high, especially in children and young adults.

A health story does not start with a diagnosis; it starts much earlier. Four in five Canadian adults have at least one risk factor they can change. Positive behavior changes (like quitting smoking, being physically active, having healthy eating habits and consuming alcohol responsibly) at any age can improve overall health and well-being.

Finally, being in good physical health is only part of the equation. Maintaining good mental and emotional health helps us solve problems and deal with life’s challenges. Reaching the right balance of physical and mental health means that the odds of leading a healthier and fuller life are on your side.


Want to know more? Check out our latest release!

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How Healthy are Canadians?


A Trend Analysis of the Health of Canadians from a Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Perspective


Good health is a major resource for social, economic and personal development and an important dimension of quality of life. Healthy, productive citizens reduce the burden on the health care system and contribute to a strong economy.

In general, Canada is a healthy nation. Over the past several decades, the overall mortality rate and life expectancy have improved considerably, and, in general, Canada compares well with the other developed nations. Nevertheless, Canada continues to face significant public health challenges in preventing chronic diseases...

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