Looking for a less stressful life? Head for the coasts, not Quebec

No, they're not dancing...

No, they're not dancing...

Ever wonder which city in Canada can boast the least-stressed-out citizens? Or wonder which city’s residents are the heaviest drinkers?

So did Statistics Canada.

Long before it became embroiled in this summer’s Long-Form Census ruckus, StatsCan went in search of which Canadian cities had the healthiest lifestyles.

Though it’s been a full six years since the report was first published, it contained some interesting details about differences from one city to another that many Canadians might not have heard about.

Looking for a less stressful lifestyle? Consider moving to the country’s coasts. StatsCan found that St. John’s, N.L. was the least-stressed city in Canada, with only 16 percent of residents saying that they had a lot of stress in their lives, ten percentage points below the nation-wide average of 26 percent. The next least-stressed cities: Halifax (20%) and Vancouver (21%).

St. John's, N.L.: Canada's least stressed-out city

St. John's, N.L.: Canada's least stressed-out city (© KarenNfld; from Panoramio)

The place not to move to if you’re looking for less stress: the province of Quebec. For all the cultural richness and beauty of the province’s two main cities, Quebec City residents expressed the most widespread complaints of stress eating away at their lives (33%), followed by Montreal residents (29%). Winnipeg finished more or less in the middle, at 24 percent, ranking 11th out of 25 for reports of high levels of stress in day-to-day life.

However stressful life might be in Quebec, you have to go across the border to Ontario to find Canada’s booze-and-cigs capital: Sudbury, Ontario. The northern mining town made infamous many years ago by Stompin’ Tom Connors’s unflattering song Sudbury Saturday Night — “The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are gettin’ stinko” — topped the scales for both the prevalence of smokers (31%) and self-reported heavy drinkers (23%). No surprise, then, that Sudburians had an average life expectancy almost four and a half years less than Vancouverites (76.7 versus 81.1 years, respectively).

Sudbury, Ont.: #1 for booze and smokes

Sudbury, Ont.: #1 for booze and smokes (© Andre Guitard; from Panoramio)

Torontonians, Victorians and Vancouverites were the least likely to be in the smoking habit — fewer than 20 percent of residents in each city identified themselves as smokers. Winnipeg, surprisingly, only ranked 19th out of 25 for the prevalence of smokers. Winnipeg ranked 11th, however, for heavy drinking — a problem that was significantly higher than the national average in Sudbury, St. John’s and Thunder Bay, and lower than the national average in Vancouver and Toronto.

An interesting east-west divide was apparent on the issue of physical inactivity. StatsCan found that Sherbrooke, Quebec was the most physically inactive city in Canada, and that Chicoutimi, Kitchener, St. John’s, Montreal and Toronto all showed rates of physical inactivity which were significantly higher than the national average. The cities that were significantly less prone to inactivity: Calgary, Edmonton, Thunder Bay, Vancouver and Victoria. Winnipeg (again, surprisingly) was only the 18th least-active.

Despite being one of the more physically active cities, Thunder Bay residents couldn’t avoid the dubious honour of having the highest percentage of obese 20-64 year olds (20 percent reporting a Body Mass Index of greater than 30). Several cities that ranked significantly below the national average for obesity: Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Vancouver and Victoria (where only 10 percent reported a Body Mass Index in excess of 30). Winnipeg (16%) ranked 14th out of 25 for obesity.

Victoria, B.C.: Canada's least-obese city

Victoria, B.C.: Canada's least-obese city (© Brad Heyd; from Panoramio)

Finally, the key to boosting a city’s average life expectancy is to do many of the things your doctor would tell you to do. StatsCan found that cities with lower numbers of smokers, heavy drinkers and obese people were more likely to have higher average life expectancies. But education also makes a difference: as the proportion of city residents with a post-secondary education goes up, the average life expectancy tends to go up with it. Immigrants — who in many cases bring different dietary habits — also tend to have a favourable effect on average life expectancy.

Almost makes you wonder why we’re not hearing many ideas for making Winnipeg a more walkable or more relaxed city in the election campaign.* (And forget the “it’s cold” excuse: the daily maximum temperature is above 0°C an average of 248 days per year.)

Now excuse me as I give in to this sudden urge to eat a cucumber and go for a walk.

* – Speaking of the election campaign, be sure to keep up with Brian Kelcey’s State of the City blog, for excellent analysis from a man who knows his way around City Hall very well, as the campaign moves forward.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

One Response to Looking for a less stressful life? Head for the coasts, not Quebec

  1. Brian says:

    I laughed at your recommendation at the end, since the progress of Winnipeg’s “campaign” so far has only served to remind me of how much happier I was growing up in balmy, stress-free Victoria. But I’m still hanging on to the ‘fixable city’ for now.

    Are you reading my mind? 🙂

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