23% of Canadians obese, 2004 report shows
One quarter of children aged two to 17 also found to be overweight or obese in 2004
BY SHARON KIRKEY
VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 16 2006
Membership at the country club can’t keep the richest Canadians slim, a new report on obesity suggests.
Males in the highest income households were more likely to report being obese than lower-middle income earning men.
And even though low-income households historically have high rates of obesity for women and children, the obesity rates for women in the highest and lowest income groups were about the same, indicated the report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Nearly three-quarters of 1816 adult Canadians surveyed said obesity is an individual responsibility.
But the institute’s report, based on the latest research and new analysis of data from two national health surveys, illustrates how an “obesogenic” environment can make it harder for people to make healthy choices, from urban sprawl to “screen time.”
People living in suburban areas, where little is within easy walking distance, are more likely to be fat than those living in urban cores.
And in 2004, Canadian children aged six to 11 who spent more than two hours a day in front of a television, video game or computer screen were twice as likely to be overweight or obese compared to kids who logged one hour or less per day.
Twenty-six percent of children aged two to 17 were overweight or obese in 2004, 23 percent of adult Canadians were obese. All are at risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and some cancers because of their girth.
Between 1985 and 2000, 57,000 deaths in Canada were related to overweight and obesity, suggests the report.
“We know there are high rates of obesity and overweight in Canada but it’s oftentimes treated as a simple solution: eat right and exercise,” says Elizabeth Gyorfi-Dyke, director of the Canadian Population Health Initiative at CIHI.
“We know we should be doing that. This report looks like at the many social and environmental factors that can make it easier or harder for us.”
One of them is where people live: Adults in Canada’s urban cores are less likely to report being overweight and obese than those in suburban or rural areas.
(A caveat is people tend to under-report their weight when asked). Women and children living in low-income and rural areas were more likely to weigh too much than were higher-income urban families.
“There is lots of research out there that shows that if you are able to walk to the store or walk to services, or you can bike to work, that increases your level of physical activity,” Gyorfi-Dyke says.
For every extra hour spent driving a car, the likelihood of being obese increases by six per cent, U.S research shows.
Overall, fewer than one in five Canadians said they were active. Adults in the highest income houses are less likely to be inactive, the study found.
But Canadian men in lower-middle income households were less likely to be obese. One explanation may be that lower income men are more likely to be doing hard, physical work that helps keep them slim.