Canada has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, but these numbers may be deceiving when the population is broken down further in the detail. The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Canada described in this article will show that despite the high life expectancy rate, there is a stark disparity between the indigenous population and non-indigenous population in the country.
10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Canada
- The average life expectancy in Canada was 82.30 years old in 2016. This can be broken down further to male and female genders, with the females life expectancy at 84 years on average and male population life expectancy approximately at 80 years. There is a large discrepancy here, however, between the indigenous and non-indigenous population in the country. According to federal documents, the people that belong to indigenous population live approximately 15 years less than people from the non-indigenous population.
- First Nations adults or non-indigenous Canadians are twice as likely to die from preventable health causes than non-aboriginal adults. These preventable causes are ones like pneumonia, breast cancer and tuberculosis. Many of these deaths could be prevented if these people had better access to health care.
- People of the indigenous population in Canada are more likely to experience inequalities in health care than people of the non-indigenous population. For example, they are more likely to wait for treatment in emergency rooms or visit several different hospital emergency rooms to get treatment for illnesses. This poor care may be the result of intrinsic discrimination in the health care system.
- Mental health problems are also more likely to be the problem of the indigenous population. In Aboriginal communities, the suicide rate is five to six times higher than the national average. Inuit youth population also has a suicide rate that is 11 times higher than the Canadian average, and it is one of the highest suicide rates globally. Mental health is a critical determinant of a healthy person, and due to lack of access to proper health care, the indigenous population may be more at risk for the continuation of these illnesses.
- One way that Canadian government and official institutions are targeting this inequality is by recruiting more indigenous doctors to the medical field to improve cultural sensitivity and to draw attention to issues that indigenous population faces. There is also an initiative between the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. This initiative aims to devote part of the undergraduate medical study to indigenous health care and problems in the health care industry. While this is a slow process, it represents work being done to ensure better health care and life outcomes.
- High life expectancy in Canada is correlated, in part, with education. According to the OECD, Canada’s population is the most educated in the world with 56.27 percent of adults that have completed a two-year, four-year or vocational program. The discrepancies between indigenous and non-indigenous population life expectancy mentioned above may also be due to the differences in education. For example, the Inuit population in the Kativik region of Quebec has a graduation rate of 25.9 percent while the total graduation rate of the Quebec region is 79 percent.
- Differences in education are also reflected in job acquisition and earning potential. Due to lower levels of education, people of the indigenous population are less likely to be employed in professional, managerial and technical jobs that typically provide opportunities to earn more money. Indigenous peoples are more likely to be found employed in jobs with less earning potential that do not require a post-secondary degree. These jobs include trades, service industry, or agricultural jobs. Differences in work and earnings may lead to lower income and less access to much-needed services that can ensure survival and prolong life.
- In 2012, according to the First Nations Information Governance Centre, the unemployment of the indigenous population was 13.9 percent, 5.8 percent higher than the non-indigenous population unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. Unemployment can negatively affect many aspects of life, including both mental and physical health, as well as increasing poverty levels. This can certainly explain lower life expectancy rates.
- Poverty also influences indigenous population more than non-indigenous population. Over 80 percent, or 297 out of 367 Aboriginal reserves, had a median income lower than the national poverty line that Statistics Canada considers to be $22,133. Poverty is directly linked to chronic stress that can drastically influence health outcomes and thus lower life expectancy.
- One nongovernmental organization fighting these harmful effects described above is the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). The NWAC’s goal is to promote and improve the well-being of indigenous populations through policy initiatives, advocacy and projects. Some of the projects are Project PEACE, that aims to advocate for community safety nets and financial literacy programs for women and ASETS (Aboriginal Skills and Employment Strategy), a program that helps women find jobs and gain educational skills.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Canada show that despite the fact that the country is considered to be one of the most developed in the world, there is still the unequal treatment of indigenous population and more should be done to resolve this question.
While these facts may look bleak, there are organizations that are working to improve indigenous livelihoods and reduce unjust inequalities.
– Isabella Niemeyer