Canada vs. America: Who Is Healthier?

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As Canadians, it's practically in our nature to compare ourselves to our neighbours to the south. And while they may be able to boast things like T.J. Maxx, Mardi Gras and unlimited Internet, new research indicates Canada trumps the U.S. in one very important way: Life expectancy.

According to a report from the U.S. National Research Council, us Canadians are going to outlive our American cousins, indicating we're generally healthier and in better shape. "[Health] is determined by 100 things, and some of those are obviously more favourable in Canada than they are in the U.S.," says report co-author Samuel Preston, a professor of demographics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Recent statistics estimate Canadians born in 2007 can expect to live to 82.3 years for girls and 79.3 for men, compared to 80.8 and 75.6 for kids in the U.S., respectively.

Why are Canucks outliving the yanks? And why has Canada's average life expectancy grown -- compared to that of those in the U.S. -- over the last three decades?

Americans have two unhealthy habits that put them at a lifespan disadvantage -- high rates of smoking and obesity. That's not to say people in Canada, Europe and other parts of the world don't smoke or overeat, but the habit is more widespread in the U.S.

One would think the lack of universal health care would matter, too. But that's not necessarily the case -- it seems the American way of doing health care is working just fine. "The evidence we were able to generate suggests the system in the U.S. is able to work as well as the Canadian health-care system and other OECD countries in terms of identifying and treating major diseases," Preston says.

But still, Go Canada! Yes, the country that's home to maple syrup, Rick Mercer and many of the best hockey players in the world can boast it's healthier than its neighbours. But truth be told, we're only marginally better off than Americans -- we still need to put an effort into taking care of ourselves.

As Preston notes, "Canada is not too far behind the U.S. In both countries, there has been a rapid increase in obesity over the past 25 years."

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