North Shore folks healthy but stressed

Work, money, childcare most common causes of worry

North Shore residents smoke less and are more active than the national and provincial average, says a recent health survey.

Residents feel safe in their communities and have a sense of belonging.

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But North Shore folks are also more stressed out than average, with work and money worries the key causes.

The North Shore Wellness Survey, conducted by Vancouver Coastal Health, surveyed more than 3,000 adults across the North Shore, including Lions Bay and Bowen Island in November and December of 2012. Participants were asked 44 questions on diet, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use and child care. More than 50 per cent of North Shore adults rated their health as excellent or very good.

"It's no surprise really that people living on the North Shore are healthy, especially considering the incredible access we have here to outdoor activities," said Dr. Brian O'Connor, medical health officer for North Shore.

Sixty-eight per cent of North Shore residents report they generally feel a strong sense of community belonging. Bowen Island scored highest with more than 80 per cent of participants feeling a sense of community belonging, while the City of North Vancouver had the lowest at 64 per cent.

More than 90 per cent of residents felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods after dark and 26 per cent strongly agreed that their neighbours are willing to help each other

out.

On the not-so-great side of the ledger, about 27 per cent of those answering the survey said their lives were quite or extremely stressful, with top causes of stress being work at almost 60 per cent and finances at almost 50 per cent.

Stress levels on the North Shore are higher than national averages. According to a 2012 Statistics Canada survey, 22 per cent of participants reported being stressed on a daily basis.

Parents reported feeling stressed more than people without children - at 34 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.

Connected to that, about 30 per cent of survey participants said they use day care, while more than half care for their children at home.

One participant wrote about struggling to pay the approximately $20,000 in annual daycare costs in a double income family, said O'Connor, making it obvious that young families are financially strapped.

Childcare was one of the areas O'Connor said the North Shore could improve on.

"It's not that we're doing really, really badly, but there are areas for improvement."

In terms of our vices, North Shore residents aren't doing too badly, according to the survey.

Those who live in the City of North Vancouver are twice as likely to smoke than people who live in West Vancouver. About 10 per cent of city residents admitted to smoking while the proportion of West Vancouver residents was just shy of five per cent.

Both municipalities beat the provincial average of more than 15 per cent, however.

Alcohol consumption on the North Shore was fairly low.

But 11 per cent of the population still reported binge drinking - defined as consuming five or more drinks in one occasion - more than once per month.

The District of West Vancouver had the lowest percentage of reported monthly binge drinkers at about six per cent, while Lions Bay reported the highest proportion of monthly binge drinking at 21 per cent. Men were more than twice as likely than women to report binge drinking more than once a month.

So were those under 29 and with less education.

The data collected from the North Shore Wellness Survey will be used to develop and guide future services and support the North Shore Congress Child and Family Friendly Community Charter.

O'Connor said he hopes the information will be useful both to individual municipalities and school boards, but also to the community as a whole, in addressing some of the issues raised in the study.

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