Income is the Great Divide for Canadians’ Health

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By A Correspondent

The health of Canadians is increasingly being affected by how much money they earn, with lower income groups reporting poorer health and greater use of health services than those with higher incomes, a new public opinion survey released on August 13 at Yellowknife indicates.

In describing their health, only 39 per cent of those earning less than $30,000 a year said it was excellent or very good, compared to 68 per cent of those earning $60,000 or more – a gap of 29 percentage points. In 2009, the gap between the two income groups was 17 points. The findings come from an Ipsos Reid survey carried out for the Canadian Medical Association as it prepared its 2012 National Report Card on Canadian health care.

“When it comes to the well-being of Canadians, the old saying that wealth equals health continues to ring true,” said Dr. John Haggie, president of the CMA. “What is particularly worrisome for Canada’s doctors is that in a nation as prosperous as Canada, the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ appears to be widening.”

The poll also found a disparity in the impact of the economy on the Canadians’ ability to take care of their health. Of those with household incomes of less than $30,000 a year, nearly half (46 per cent) reported that as a result of the economic downturn, they have spent less time, energy and money on sustaining their health, compared to 19 per cent earning $60,000 or more.

In 2009, there was no difference between lower and higher-income Canadians in whether they accessed health care services within the past month. This year shows a significant gap between the two groups, with 59 per cent of Canadians who earn less than $30,000 a year having accessed health care services within the past month, compared to only 43 per cent among those earning $60,000 or more.

Education also plays a significant role. Those with a high school education or less are nearly twice as likely as those with a university education to have spent less time, energy, and money sustaining their health as a result of the economic downturn (35 per cent vs. 19 per cent).

“We as Canadians tend to think we have a fair society and an equitable public health care system, when, in reality, there are vast numbers of Canadians who are forced to do without when it comes to health care,” said Dr. Haggie. “That is why the physicians of Canada are pressing for transformation of health and health care so that patient needs truly can be put first.”

In other findings, 53 per cent of Canadians give the performance of health care providers and their associations in dealing with health care in Canada either an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade.

The findings are from an online poll by Ipsos of 1,004 Canadians, July 23 to 30, and a telephone poll July 25 to 30, conducted on behalf of the CMA. Click here for a copy of the 2012 National Report Card on Canadian health care.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 76,000 of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations. CMA’s mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.


Vol. 12 - No. 3


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