Healthier living saves Ontario $4.9B, study finds

While physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and drinking continue to cost Ontario's health care system a lot every year, new research has found that the health of Ontarians in these four areas improved over a 10-year period, saving the system $4.9 billion.
New research shows that Ontario's health care system is saving some money as more and more residents quit smoking, among other things. (Getty Images/Cultura RF)

Unsurprisingly, new research has found that smoking, drinking, physical inactivity and poor diet continue to cost Ontario's health care system a lot of money each year.

But the good news is that Ontarians actually improved their habits in these four areas over 10 years, saving the system an estimated $4.9 billion.

Smoking cessation contributed most to the savings, according to the study, which was done by Ottawa Hospital researchers and the independent Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

Nearly 81,000 people 25 and older were surveyed between 2004 and 2013 to examine any changes in health behaviours and their effect on their total health care costs.

About 22 per cent of Ontario's health costs over 10 years — or $89.4 billion — can be attributed to the four health behaviour pillars of physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and unhealthy drinking, the study found.

Lower-than-average socioeconomic status accounted for about 15 per cent of the province's health costs over 10 years — or $60.7 billion, according to the research.

And those numbers are likely conservative, the researchers note, because of people's tendency to underreport their negative behaviours and also because young people were excluded from the surveys.

View the research in greater depth here.


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