Disparities by socio-economic status suggest where improvement efforts can be focused

Health Indicators 2013

May 23, 2013—More than 18,400 Canadians, or about 67 per 100,000, were hospitalized for self-injury in 2011–2012, and a new report shows that this number could potentially be significantly reduced. Health Indicators 2013, released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI),reveals that self-injury hospitalization rates vary across the provinces and also across socio-economic status groups.

According to the report, the national hospitalization rate for self-injury—a result of suicidal and/or self-harming behaviour—would be 27% lower if all neighbourhoods had the same hospitalization rate as the most affluent ones.

CIHI’s annual Health Indicators report, produced in partnership with Statistics Canada, provides more than 40 measures of health and health system performance in Canada for the provinces and territories, as well as for the country’s larger health regions.

This year’s report includes new rates reported by socio-economic status at national and provincial levels for 15 indicators, including self-injury hospitalizations. Neighbourhood income quintiles, which range from least affluent to most affluent, are used to group people by socio-economic status because there is a correlation between where a person lives and social determinants of health such as income, education, crime rate and quality of community services.

Disparities by socio-economic status vary across the provinces

CIHI’s report shows that in 2011–2012, self-injury hospitalization rates were highest in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, at 86 and 85 per 100,000, respectively; they were lowest in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec (63, 59 and 59 per 100,000, respectively). While rates in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec were all below the national average, the report reveals that each province could potentially reduce its rate further: if all residents experienced the same hospitalization rates as those living in the most-affluent neighbourhoods in each province, the rates could be at least 25% lower.

“Any time a person is hospitalized for self-injury, it means they were not able to be adequately cared for through the community,” says Kira Leeb, CIHI’s Director of Health System Performance. “Variations in the rates across the provinces generally indicate that there is room for improvement. By digging a little deeper and looking at disparities by socio-economic status, our report identifies areas where planners may want to focus their health promotion and prevention efforts.”

Socio-economic status has greater impact on some conditions than others

When looking at the newly released suite of 15 indicators with information at the socio-economic level, CIHI’s report reveals that the hospitalization rates for chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart failure showed the greatest potential for improvement. In 2011–2012, a total of 290 per 100,000 Canadians were hospitalized for these conditions. If all Canadians had the same rates as those who live in the most-affluent neighbourhoods, the rate could be reduced by 32%.

“Disparities related to socio-economic status are complex and do not necessarily have easy solutions,” explains Chantal Couris, Manager of Indicators Research and Development at CIHI. “By comparing health statistics across the most- to least-affluent neighbourhoods in an ongoing and standardized way, we hope to shed light on how much room for improvement there is with respect to disease prevention and treatment in Canada.”

Media contacts


Angela Baker
Cell: 416-451-5083

Sandra Koppert
Cell: 613-297-7792


Figure 1

Self-Injury Hospitalization Rates and Potential Rate Reductions by Province, Canada, 2011–2012 (Figure 7 in the report)

Figure 2

Hospitalization Rates and Potential Rate Reductions for Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions by Province, Canada, 2011–2012 (Figure 8 in the report)