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Study finds 72 per cent of Canadian men are unhealthy; Atlantic region is second worst

['Deep fried foods like these french fries would be one of the foods targeted by the healthy eating group.']
“You look at small changes. You talk about guys ordering french fries, next time maybe it’s half fries, half salad. Little changes." — Joe Rachert, program manager for the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation.

Here’s to your health.

Men from the Atlantic region are among the unhealthiest of unhealthy Canadian men, according to a study to be released this week by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation.

The study to be released to coincide with men’s health week across the country shows that 72 per cent of Canadian men are unhealthy and that only six per cent of our country men are considered very healthy.

The Atlantic region, which is lopped in with the three northern territories, is the second unhealthiest region in the country, with 77.5 per cent of men deemed unhealthy. That’s second only to Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The study looked at men’s behaviours in the five categories of smoking, drinking, sleeping, exercise and diet.

“The study didn’t actually study the why, it studied just the health behaviours,” Joe Rachert, program manager for the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, said of the findings. “The why goes toward things like awareness of health, masculinity and the stigma around being healthy for men.”

The study found that 62 per cent of Canadian men have an unhealthy diet, 54 per cent sleep too little or too much, 59 per cent do not get 150 minutes of moderate to strenuous exercise pr week, 39 per cent have an unhealthy alcohol consumption and 20 per cent smoke cigarettes.

The male stigma is still the big thing to get past, Rachert said.

“You are out with your buddies and everybody is having fries and you’re not going to order that salad because of the masculinity issue,” Rachert said. “It’s that hegemonic male or that hyper-masculine male where you are invincible and your health isn’t a concern and that ache and pain will go away on its own. Iit’s huge. It is culturally based, we see it on TV, we see it reflected in movies, we see it everywhere. We’re kind of inundated with that stigma in the media -- the strong, masculine, stoic guy.”

Rachert said things are moving in the right direction.

“That’s what we are about here at the foundation, trying to move the needle in that direction, so guys can understand that they don’t have to be that stoic individual, that they can ask for help, that they can talk about their health with one another.”

The year-long study was conducted by Intensions Consulting, starting in April 2017. An online survey was completed by 2,000 men between the ages of 19 and 94. The sample is considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The study found that 18.2 per cent of men in this region smoke, that 35.7 have unhealthy drinking habits, 57.3 per cent have unhealthy sleeping habits, 51.7 have unhealthy exercise behaviour and 59.4 are not healthy eaters.

The northern territories make up only about four per cent of the total Atlantic and northern population, meaning the survey findings are fairly accurate for the Atlantic population.

Rachert said the study is about behaviours versus disease.

“A lot of times we get told that men have this percentage of cancer, this percentage of heart disease, stroke,” he said. “What this study does is the path instead of the destination. You still have a choice to change behaviour and to move up the rungs on a ladder. This is the path as opposed to ‘Oh, shoot, I have prostate cancer or, oh, damn, I had a heart attack. We want to prevent that. ... This is the information that we need to eliminate unhealthy behaviours that are causing these chronic diseases and conditions to occur in men.”

Rachert said the foundation will repeat the study in two to three years. He said it’s important for men to look at the study but not to try to change all of their behaviours immediately.

“We don’t want guys looking at it and saying, ‘oh my God, I’ve got four unhealthy behaviours, I’m going to change them all,’ because you are doomed to failure.” he said. “You look at small changes. You talk about guys ordering french fries, next time maybe it’s half fries, half salad. Little changes. Skip the sugary cereal in the morning and have oatmeal if you can. Drink five glasses of water a day. It’s really about making those small steps and having them multiply.”

The Chronicle Herald

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