Health & Fitness

New Study Finds Where You Live May Influence Your Health Risks

Written by Timothy Werth

Depending on where you live in the world, you may be subjected to things like harsh winters or seasonal allergies. But according to a new study, where you live in Canada may actually play a big role in how likely you are to develop a major disease.

Researchers at McMaster University collected data throughout Canada’s 10 provinces and found concerning links between health and certain lifestyle factors. Some of the factors include prices of food, access to public transportation, what kind of variety of fruits and vegetables is available, and even the prices of alcohol and cigarettes.

According to Russell de Souza, first author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster, “We found there are significant differences in environmental factors that may contribute to health, and that these differed between urban and rural communities, as well as when we compared eastern with western, and northern with southern communities.”

The data was collected between 2014 and 2016 and looked at 2,074 communities throughout Canada. Of all the communities, about 84% were urban. The general consensus of the study found that among rural grocery stores, there was generally lower access to fresh produce as well as less variety of higher prices.

Furthermore, compared to city restaurants, those in rural communities tend to have fewer healthy options. The study also showed that urban stores offered lower prices and more varieties of cigarettes. But in both rural and urban stores, advertising for junk food and sugary drinks was seen more frequently than advertisements for healthy food options.

This data shows the importance of living somewhere that not only offers but encourages healthy lifestyle choices. Lifestyle factors like smoking, infrequent exercise, and a poor diet can all lead to serious diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even some types of cancer. And while there are currently 20,000 physicians who specialize in Urgent Care Medicine, major health risks can build up over time. People who live in rural and remote areas should be mindful of the healthy options they have access to.

Anne Simard, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s chief missions and research officer, expressed concerns with the study’s findings, saying rural and remote communities “continue to face inequities with respect to access to healthy food options … This underscores the need for policies to improve nutrition in these communities.”

So whether you live in a Canadian province, somewhere along the 597 square miles of Oahu in Hawaii, or anywhere else in the world, you should be mindful of the kind of healthy lifestyle options you have access to. While you can’t always change where you live, you can be more proactive about ensuring you’re putting your health first.

About the author

Timothy Werth