April 26, 2018 — The rate of Canadians younger than 20 being hospitalized for asthma is down by 50% over the past 10 years, dropping from 154 hospitalizations per 100,000 population to 75. Over that time, rates decreased in all provinces and age groups, with the largest decrease occurring among children younger than 5. Declining hospitalizations suggest that primary care treatment and management of this disease have improved during the past decade.

Despite this improvement, asthma continues to be one of the leading causes of hospital stays for people younger than 20, with more than 6,000 hospitalizations in 2015–2016. Moreover, children and youth living in lower-income neighbourhoods continued to experience significantly higher rates of hospitalization than those in higher-income neighbourhoods.

New data released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) specifically looks at hospitalization rates over time and across population subgroups.

The report also identifies potential interventions to continue improving the management of asthma in children and youth and to reduce hospitalizations, such as clear communication between clinicians and parents about how to manage the condition and reduced exposure to second-hand smoke.

Key findings

Hospitalizations over time

  • Asthma hospitalization rates declined steadily between 2006 and 2015 for both boys and girls, with the largest decrease seen among children younger than 5.

Hospitalizations by income

  • Throughout the past decade, hospitalization rates remained about 1.5 times higher in the lowest-income neighbourhoods compared with the highest-income neighbourhoods.

Hospitalizations by urban/rural area

  • Urban areas experienced slightly higher hospitalization rates than rural/remote areas, on average.
  • In Nova Scotia and Ontario, asthma hospitalization rates were significantly higher in urban than in rural/remote areas.

Hospitalizations by education level

  • There are large education-related inequalities, especially among boys.
  • Hospitalization rates were about 2.5 times higher for boys and nearly 2 times higher for girls living in households in which the highest level of education was less than high school, compared with those living in households in which the highest level of education was a master’s degree or doctorate.


“Asthma affects thousands of families across the country, so it’s extremely encouraging to see asthma hospitalization rates drop significantly for Canada’s children and youth. Our youngest patients are seeing the most dramatic reduction. That said, the data does tell us there’s room for improvement in hospitalization rates for children and youth who come from households that have lower education levels and lower income levels.”

— Kathleen Morris, Vice President, Research and Analysis, Canadian Institute for Health Information

This new report supports CIHI’s commitment to help stakeholders better understand Canada’s child and youth population, as outlined in CIHI’s strategic plan. CIHI is focusing its efforts on influencing and improving Canada’s health systems, guided by key themes and key populations that our stakeholders told us were important.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians. We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.

Media contact

Riley Denver