Friday, June 16, 2006

The Healthy Canadians

"You can add Canada to the list of nations that are healthier than the United States of America. Americans are 42 per cent more likely than Canadians to have diabetes, 32 per cent more likely to have high blood pressure, and 12 per cent more likely to have arthritis, Harvard Medical School researchers found. That is according to a survey in which American and Canadian adults were asked over the telephone about their health."
- The Associated Press - May 30, 2006

According to one of the co-authors of the Harvard study, Canada’s national health insurance program is at least part of the reason for the differences noted. However, an examination of the Canadian experience suggests that the study’s results may actually be explained by one or more of the following factors:

* Canadians have a weaker dollar and measure their health status in metric. When you consider that one American health unit equals roughly 1.2 Canadian metric health units, there’s probably very little difference in overall well being.

* Canada is cold much of the year. It is a well known fact that colder temperatures slow down the metabolism and thereby preserve and protect organic matter. When Canada is viewed as a national icebox, it’s not surprising that we live longer.

* With our six-month winters, we get significantly less sunlight. That results in lots more sleep which is a proven health restorative.

* Given that Canada is a huge country that is sparsely populated, we automatically get more exercise. In the winter, that often means skating or snowshoeing to work. And unlike in the U. S., Canadians may have to drive miles out of their way to find a donut shop.

* Diet is almost definitely a key factor in explaining our healthier status. In a word - donuts. It is well known that police officers are in top physical condition and are big consumers of donuts. Canadians eat more donuts ‘per capita’ than any other nationality. Ergo, Canadians are more likely to be in top shape.

* Physical health is often directly correlated to psychological health. Canadians’ vaunted concern for one another is evident in the universal greeting "How’s it going, eh?" Such expressions of goodwill likely lead to reduced stress and more communal donut consumption.

* Canadian studies are typically skewed by the "politeness" factor. Researchers north of the border are less likely to label someone unhealthy or obese. Such conclusions are often ignored or discarded as being rude or "not nice."

* Finally, the surprising disparity in blood pressure statistics is probably just an anomaly. Studies conducted prior to January 20, 2001 consistently showed Americans and Canadians with about the same incidence of hypertension. It is believed that with the completion of George W. Bush’s second term on January 20, 2009, the current striking discrepancy will disappear entirely.

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