03/07/2012 05:00 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Islanders more likely to be overweight, but plan to make changes, says report

CHARLOTTETOWN - A new report says people living in Prince Edward Island are more likely to be obese or overweight than other Canadians.

The 112-page report released Wednesday by the province's chief public health office takes a comprehensive look at the health of Islanders, including life expectancy and chronic diseases.

The report — the first of its kind — says Islanders are less likely to be physically active than other Canadians.

"It is daunting to think that children today may be the first generation to see a declining life expectancy due to increasing risk factors such as obesity and lack of physical activity," says the report.

The public health office also found that Islanders report higher heavy drinking rates than the rest of the country, and are more likely to have a chronic condition such as arthritis, asthma or cancer.

However, the report also says more than half of Islanders say they plan to improve their health over the next year, mostly through physical activity.

The majority of Islanders reported their overall health to be very good or excellent.

The report also says life expectancy among Islanders is similar to the rest of Canada. Male and female Islanders born in 2007 are expected to live for 78 and 83 years, respectively.

"As well, Islanders report a strong sense of belonging to their community which is an important aspect of mental health and social well-being," says the report.

"Individuals taking action at any time to improve health, whether it is to stop smoking, increase physical activity, or having a child immunized, will contribute to healthier communities over time."

Health Minister Doug Currie said data contained in the report will help guide government policy decisions.

"This is a very important document that gives us a clear, realistic picture of the current health of Islanders," Currie said in a statement.