Smoking, poor diets, unhealthy alcohol consumption and lack of exercise are sending Ontarians to hospital for more than 900,000 days a year at a cost of $1.8 billion, according to a new study conducted jointly by ICES, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa.

The study led by Dr. Doug Manuel identified nearly 80,000 Ontario adults who had been surveyed between 2001 and 2005 regarding their health status. Their hospital bed use was then tracked to determine how much of it was attributable to four unhealthy behaviours.

The study found that:

  • One-third of hospital bed use between 2001 and 2012 could be attributed to smoking, poor diet, unhealthy alcohol consumption and physical inactivity.
  • In 2011, these unhealthy behaviours accounted for the use of 942,000 hospital bed-days, at a cost of $1.8 billion for insured residents of Ontario.
  • Nearly all Ontarians reported at least one of the four health behaviour risks; only 7.2% reported none.
  • A 54-year-old with the unhealthiest behaviours in all four risk categories spent the same amount of time in hospital as a 75-year-old with none.
  • Smoking had the greatest impact on hospital use, followed by physical inactivity and poor diet (17%, 12% and 6% of hospital use, respectively).

The researchers have created an online calculator to help Ontarians estimate their life expectancy and the amount of time they might expect to spend in hospital due to their habits and lifestyle choices.

For more information, contact