Nearly 4 out of 5 Prairie men have unhealthy lifestyles, study suggests

Men on the Prairies are leading more unhealthy lifestyles than their male counterparts in other parts of Canada, a new study suggests.

Researchers say 79% of Manitoba, Saskatchewan men have poor diets, smoke too much and exercise too little

Twenty-four per cent of Manitoba and Saskatchewan men surveyed in the Canadian Men's Health Behaviour Study reported unhealthy smoking habits. The national average was 20 per cent. (TanyaLovus/Shutterstock)

Men on the Prairies are leading more unhealthy lifestyles than their male counterparts in other parts of Canada, a new study suggests.

The Canadian Men's Health Behaviour Study found that of the men sampled across the country, 72 per cent were engaged in at least two unhealthy habits that impact chronic diseases and conditions, including unhealthy smoking and drinking, and poor dieting, exercising and sleeping patterns.

On a provincial level, the rates were highest in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where nearly four out of five men (79 per cent) were found to be doing poorly in at least two of those five key lifestyle categories, said Rachert.

"Those are significant numbers," said Joe Rachert, program manager for the Canadian Men's Health Foundation. "It is pretty shocking."

On the whole, only six per cent of Canadian men reported no unhealthy lifestyle habits, Rachert said, and 22 per cent had at least one unhealthy behaviour.

Rachert said the study is unlike others in that it focused on behaviours rather than strictly on something like disease rates.

"This is about the path. This is what takes you to those diseases," Rachert told CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Monday. "These are the things that you can change ahead of time so that you actually don't end up with a chronic disease and condition."

Men surveyed in Quebec (73 per cent), Ontario (72 per cent) and Alberta (70 per cent) also scored around the national average, while B.C. (68 per cent) and the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Atlantic provinces (39.2 per cent) boasted the lowest rates by comparison.

Nationally, 2,000 men age 19 to 94 participated in the survey, which was conducted on behalf of the Canadian Men's Health Foundation. Results from a sample of this size are considered accurate within +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The sample size was much smaller for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Only 131 men from those two provinces filled out the survey.

Exercise, smoking problems on Prairies

Manitoba and Saskatchewan men had the highest rate of unhealthy eating at 69 per cent, compared to the national average of 62 per cent. The same was true for not enough exercise (55 per cent versus the national average of 49 per cent) and smoking (24 per cent versus the Canada-wide average of 20 per cent).

Though overall more men on the Prairies appear to be engaged in unhealthy behaviours, of the five categories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan also scored below the national average in two areas.

They had the lowest rates for unhealthy drinking (33.6 per cent compared to the national average of 38.7 per cent) and had better sleeping habits than their peers across Canada (52.7 per cent compared to the national average of 53.9 per cent).

Rachert said banking seven to nine hours of sleep a night is considered the gold standard, and anything outside of that can increase your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

'Macho' attitudes influence health

Age and income level play a factor, as do social pressures experienced by men, Rachert said.

"That whole macho-male kind of attitude toward health is a factor," he said. 

"Guys aren't that great about talking with each other or other people about their health. They like to be that giant, that stoic male, like you know, 'Yes even though this hurts, I can handle it.' It seems that it only gets a little better with men once they kind of get a little older."

Rachert said research has shown many men don't start to wisen up about their health until they're in their 50s and have already begun to have health problems.

"We need to start making that recognition of their health start far, far earlier, way earlier than their 50s," he said.

Rachert emphasized that the first step for men is to work on reducing some of these problem areas. Men can make small changes that can have a big impact over time, including tossing the sugary breakfast cereal in exchange for a bowl of oatmeal or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

"We don't want guys to make wholesale changes. It's not the key here and that's not how you're going to be successful," he said.

"If you're going out with your buddies and you're all having burgers and fries, you know, maybe you're the guy that has half fries, half salad. It really does start with those small changes."

More details about the study are online at the Canadian Men's Health Week website, which men can use to see how they measure up.

Key findings:

  • 62 per cent of men have an unhealthy diet.​
    • 68.7 per cent in Manitoba-Saskatchewan.
  • 54 per cent of men sleep too much or too little.
    • 52.7 per cent in Manitoba-Saskatchewan.
  • 59 per cent of Canadian men don't get 150 minutes of moderate to strenuous exercise weekly.
    • 55 per cent in Manitoba-Saskatchewan.
  • 39 per cent of men have unhealthy alcohol consumption.
    • 33.6 per cent in Manitoba-Saskatchewan.
  • 20 per cent of Canadian men smoke cigarettes.
    • 23.7 per cent in Manitoba-Saskatchewan.


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