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No surprise, Nunavut has health problems
Smoking rates jump and obesity remains high, but have higher sense of community belonging

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 25, 2012

The health of Nunavummiut is deteriorating, Statistics Canada figures released June 19 show.

Nunavummiut are far less likely than other Canadians to report feeling their health is excellent or very good, a rate which fell to 40 per cent in 2011 from 45 per cent in 2010. That decrease mirrors an increase in those who feel the state of their health is fair or poor.

There is an even more marked drop in the number of people who feel their mental health is excellent or very good. That figure dropped to 54 per cent from 67 per cent in one year.

That said, Nunavummiut are far more likely than other Canadians to feel a sense of community belonging, while the number of those who feel their life is satisfying went up slightly and is just .5 per cent away from the national average of 92.3 per cent.

Nunavummiut can't seem to kick the habit, it seems, as 51 per cent report they smoked daily and another nine per cent smoked occasionally in 2011.

At 60 per cent, the total rate was up more than 10 per cent from 2010, when 54 per cent of residents aged 12 and over said they smoked. It's still lower than 2009's rate of 61 per cent.

Regardless, it's three times the national average of 20 per cent, and is by far the highest proportion of smokers in any Canadian jurisdiction. In runner-up NWT, 35 per cent of residents smoke.

The statistics were compiled from Nunavut's 10 largest communities, and show adults aged 35 to 44 are most likely to smoke, at 70 per cent.

Obesity statistics show that Nunavut continues to struggle with weight issues. Of adults aged 18 and over, 58 per cent said they were overweight or obese in 2011, with men more likely to be overweight. That's down slightly from 60 per cent in 2010, but up from 51 per cent in 2009, the last time Nunavut's obesity rate was below the national average. The national average has not fallen since 2003, when it was 49 per cent.

The only food statistic mentioned relates to the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Compared to the rest of Canada, half as many Nunavummiut - one in five people - eat five full servings each day.

The biggest difference between Nunavut and the rest of Canada is the access to a doctor on a regular basis, which is not a surprise considering most communities have no doctors. Only 15 per cent of the population has access to a doctor, while the national average is almost six times as high at 85 per cent.

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