10/02/2012 11:36 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 02:31 EST

Canada Quality Of Life: Vital Signs Report On Health Outlook For Generation Y


It's time for Generation Y to get off those couches and computers.

The 2012 Vital Signs Report, conducted for the Community Foundations Of Canada (CFC) by community organizations across the county, is an annual report that tracks statistics on health, education, housing and other key areas of well-being. This year's report found the inactivity of Canada's youth, combined with obesity epidemic, is something Canadians shouldn't ignore.

"There's a shift between generations: One had a pretty well understood path of education, to career prospects to family life, but for the younger generation, there's much more fragmentation and uncertainty," says Ian Bird, CEO and president of the CFC.

The report found that 70 to 79 per cent of Canadian boys aged 13 to 15 are inactive, while that number rises to 80 to 89 per cent for girls. If those numbers didn't faze you, the report also found the average youth spends an average of 8.6 hours a day sitting during free time, when they're online and at school or work, Bird says.

"It's different from past generations. We are seeing a decline of active outdoor involvement in nature and the community and way more screen time," he tells The Huffington Post Canada. An average child aged 5 to 11, and youth aged 12 to 17 should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense activity a day, according to Health Canada and The World Health Organization.

Story Continues Below: It's not all just doom and gloom. The report also found that today's generation will be well-equipped with strengths and skills for Canada's most daunting challenges:

Photo gallery Highlights From Vital Signs 2012 See Gallery

So if youth aren't picking up balls and running around outside — what are they doing? Living in a era when we're more connected than ever, the Vital Signs report also found that for teens, social networking online represented the number one group activity for females and second for males after sports.

"It's the new normal — this level of connection through a hand-held universe. In the findings, there's also a lot of signs that young people are benefiting from what comes with their highly educated, wired and globally connected generation," he says.

While that may be true for job prospects, on the health side, obesity continues to be an alarming concern for health experts, with the economic cost of the disease hitting $4.6 billion in 2008, according to Statistics Canada. Even though 74 per cent of Canadian children and youth are of a healthy weight, 1.6 million children and youth are overweight and obese, according to the report. Research also found that rates of being overweight have doubled in the past 25 years and obesity rates have tripled.

Meanwhile, other health trends are seeing a switch. The number of young smokers in Canada has dropped by over half (53 per cent) and the smoking rate among teenagers has dropped to 15 per cent between 2006 and 2008, the report found. But some communities continue to struggle. The report found that 28 per cent of Aboriginal youth living off reserves smoked in 2008 and one in five teens from the lowest income bracket in Canada also smoked.

"Whether you're a policy maker or the government, you're going to be concerned by these numbers if you're thinking about the talent in your company or community. Families can think about being role models for their kids," Bird says.