There are two important measurements of life expectancy in Canada: how long the average Canadian is expected to live and how long an individual is expected to live. Keeping track of life expectancy is important to use as an indicator of the health outcomes in our country, and so groups and individuals can leverage this data to make positive decisions to affect their own lives and life expectancy.
Compared to the life expectancy 100 years ago, the average Canadian born today will live 25 years longer. However, the life expectancy rate in recent years has slowed or remained flat, seeing nil to only small gains each year. If you want to live longer, then it’s more important now than ever to understand what changes we can make to our lives to increase our life expectancy and have a higher quality of life:
Regional impact on life expectancies in Canada
The latest report from Statistics Canada released in 2019, found that the average life expectancy in Canada is 79.9 years for men and 84 years for women.1
This statistic doesn’t tell the full story about how life expectancy differs regionally or demographically. It is important to note that there are disparities in life expectancy based on a person’s lifestyle, their gender, or even what part of the country a person lives in. The below statistics from 2017 highlight some differences in provincial and territorial life expectancies.
For Canadian females, the average life expectancy at birth in the following provinces/territories is highlighted:2
- 84 years: British Columbia
- 83-84 years: Alberta, Ontario, Quebec
- 73-83 years: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, and Newfoundland & Labrador, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia
For Canadian males, the average life expectancy at birth in the following provinces/territories is highlighted:
- 80 years: British Columbia
- 79-80 years: Alberta, Ontario, Quebec
- 70-80 years: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, and Newfoundland & Labrador, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia
According to Statistics Canada, regions with lower life expectancy are typically more rural/remote resulting from less access to healthcare services and facilities.3 People in these regions also typically have higher rates of obesity, smoking, stress, and heavy drinking, all of which are risk factors for premature death.3
While overall life expectancy in Canada is considered good, research suggests that ours is expected to fall behind on global life expectancy measures by 2040.4 In 2018, we were 17th on the global rankings, meaning that only 16 countries achieved a longer life expectancy than ours.4 However, Canada is expected to rank lower in the near future due to improvements in the healthcare and health outcomes of other countries.4 It’s positive news that global life is expectancy is improving, but some of the drop in our rankings may also be explained by our plateauing life expectancy.
Why is life expectancy changing in Canada?
According to a report from Global News, older Canadians (men and women), are continuing to see slightly better health outcomes each year. With medical research and advancements in technology and treatments, those affected by medical conditions and diseases like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular/circulatory diseases and other conditions are living longer.5
While there are many contributing factors to overall life expectancies, at times some demographic cohorts can bring down the national average. Research has shown that the opioid crisis in western provinces is a particularly large contributor, and in some regions like Alberta, the life expectancy has dropped by 0.24 years for men and 0.1 years for women.4 6 That’s not to say the problem isn’t serious in eastern provinces, but nationally between January 2018 and September 2018 there were 3,286 opioid-related deaths with men making up 75% of this statistic.6
Ways to increase your life expectancy
As a society and individually, there are things we can do to affect our life expectancy and live longer. For starters, it’s important to understand and reduce our exposure and risks to the major causes of early death. In Canada, the most likely causes of premature deaths include:7
- Heart disease
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Understanding your current state of health and working with your doctor to develop a plan to reduce your risk is a good place to start. According to a report by Global News, an American study published in the online journal Circulation demonstrated how certain lifestyle factors can have an impact on your life expectancy and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.8 9 The results of the study show that the healthier the lifestyle, the longer the life expectancy.8 Each lifestyle factor is associated with 2-3 years of increased life expectancy.8 The lifestyle factors identified by the study were: reduce or quit smoking, eat healthy, drink moderately, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise daily.8
Getting insurance with diabetes, cancer and other lifelong conditions
Your doctor will be able to speak to the conditions you may have that could impact your life expectancy, but even some manageable conditions such as diabetes or cancer may reduce your life expectancy. Specifically, for diabetes there are ways to reduce your chances of getting, or even reversing some forms of diabetes. Some types are life-long / hereditary, but others can be treated by taking better care of one’s self. Improving diet and increasing exercise are effective means to decrease the risk or effects of diabetes. If you or a loved one has diabetes, it’s important to know that there are insurance plans available for people with diabetes and other lifelong conditions.
It should not come as a surprise that risk factors such as smoking, lifestyle and diet can impact our life expectancy, however, we do have some control over it.
A good starting point is to speak with your doctor about the specific health challenges that you currently face, those you may face later in life, and take action that can lead to a longer happier & healthier life. Here’s to a long and healthy life!
- 1 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190530/cg-d002-eng.htm
- 2 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190530/t001d-eng.htm
- 3 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2011001/article/11427-eng.htm
- 4 https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/canada-s-ranking-on-global-life-expectancy-scale-expected-to-drop-by-2040-study-1.4136851
- 5 https://globalnews.ca/news/5333946/life-expectancy-stall-opioid-crisis/
- 6 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-overdose-crises-lowering-life-expectancy-statistics-canada/
- 7 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/180628/dq180628b-eng.htm
- 8 https://globalnews.ca/news/4178357/5-habits-life-expectancy-study/
- 9 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047