CIHI shines a light on income-related health inequalities in Canada

Richer Canadians are more likely to live longer, healthier lives.

The reasons for this are many, and the key to equalizing the health of Canadians, regardless of income, is not easily identifiable. But the numbers are clear: income matters when it comes to your health.

In November, CIHI released Trends in Income-Related Health Inequalities in Canada. The report indicated that, despite several initiatives aimed at closing the gap, the inequality between the health of the rich and the health of the poor has not improved.

Moreover, in 3 of the indicators CIHI studied, the gap has actually widened:

  • Smoking — Adults in the highest income level smoked less over time, but there was no change among Canadian adults in the lowest income level.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Hospitalization for Canadians Younger Than Age 75 — Rates decreased for the highest income level but increased for lower-income Canadians.
  • Self-Rated Mental Health — The percentage of adults who rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor” increased over time in all income levels except the highest.

Have health gaps by income changed in Canada?

Engaging the public

In 2011, Canada joined a number of nations in a commitment to implement the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health. In adopting the Rio Declaration, Canada committed to reducing health inequalities in this country.

To support such a relevant report and to engage the Canadian public in a conversation on health inequalities and their underlying causes, CIHI held a #CIHIchat on Twitter in early December.

Moderated by CIHI’s Jean Harvey and Sara Allin, the lively online discussion touched on pharmacare, mental health, and housing strategies, demonstrating the complicated nature of income-related health inequalities.

Natrice Rese, a retired personal support worker, also participated in the chat. Having worked in long-term care for the elderly, she advocated for senior citizens and those suffering from mental illness. “There is a narrow window for people with enough money to get the care they need,” said Rese.

Want to know more?

For more information on CIHI’s findings on the topic of income-related inequalities, check out the interactive eTool on