By now we realize that smoking, a poor diet, and lack of physical activity are terrible for our health. However, knowing how terrible our unhealthy habits are is another matter.
When we don’t receive immediate consequences from smoking, missing a workout, or eating a greasy burger, it’s difficult to understand what it’s doing to us at the time.
A new Canadian study is giving us a better idea.
Researchers can determine how quickly our bad habits are killing us with newly-developed technology.
Dr. Doug Manuel of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and lead creator of the study says “We found that life expectancy was reduced by about six years from unhealthy living.”
That is six years off of the lives of ordinary Canadians for no other reason than life-choices.
And that’s just the average! When the study compares healthy Canadians with those that have unhealthy behaviors, the difference in life expectancy is a shocking 17.9 years.
Manuel said “I’m always surprised by the magnitude of this. I’ve been doing this for a while but still I’m always surprised by how much healthy living does affect your health.”
Smoking is still the greatest risk factor, but living a stationary lifestyle is a very close second. The study shows that smoking contributes to 26 percent of all deaths. 24 percent is due to physical inactivity, and 12% percent to poor diet. 0.4 percent of all deaths are due to unhealthy alcohol consumption.
Researchers have used the results to create an accurate online health calculator called Project Big Life. Based on your health behaviors, the calculator estimates your life expectancy.
Manuel says the calculator doesn’t take variables into consideration, such as family history or genetics. But he hopes people will use it to explore healthier lifestyles. Even small changes can make a dramatic improvement. Manuel said, “There’s a very consistent relationship between how you live and how it affects your health, no question.”