February 8, 2018 — In an international survey of seniors in 11 countries, Canadian seniors reported the lowest satisfaction with the overall quality of the health care they received. Despite this, Canada’s seniors report better perceived health than the international average. 

How Canada Compares: Results From The Commonwealth Fund’s 2017 International Health Policy Survey of Seniors, released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), shows that only 2 out of 3 Canadian seniors (67%) were satisfied with the quality of the health care they received, compared with an average of 76% of seniors in all surveyed countries. When it comes to perceived health, 4 out of 5 Canadian seniors surveyed described their health as “excellent,” “very good” or “good.”

The 2017 edition of The Commonwealth Fund’s survey focused on the views and experiences of seniors (age 65 and older) in 11 developed countries. The Canadian survey included questions on home care and medical assistance in dying that were not asked in other countries.

In a new series of videos, Tracy Johnson, CIHI’s director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues, addresses the survey’s findings in 4 key areas: access to specialists, mental health, home care and medical assistance in dying.

Other findings

Access to specialists

Canadian seniors think coordination of specialist care could be improved.

  • More than half (59%) of Canadian seniors surveyed — the highest rate among 11 countries — said that they waited at least 4 weeks for a specialist visit.
  • 5% said their specialist did not have basic medical information from their regular doctor.
  • 13% said their regular doctor did not seem informed about the specialist care they received. 

Mental health

Canadian seniors have to cope with mental health challenges, on top of other medical issues.

  • Almost 1 out of 5 Canadian seniors surveyed had experienced emotional distress in the past 2 years, which they found difficult to cope with by themselves.
  • 17% of Canadian seniors reported feeling isolated some of the time or often.

Home care

Canadian seniors want to stay at home for as long as possible.

  • More than 4 out of 5 Canadian seniors surveyed (86%) who received publicly funded home care said that the services helped them remain at home.
  • 3% of Canadian seniors felt they needed publicly funded home care services but did not receive them.
  • 11% of Canadian seniors had help with certain activities of daily living, with 4 out of 5 receiving it from a family member or friend.

Medical assistance in dying

  • More seniors in Canada have engaged in end-of-life care planning than those in other countries.
  • 12% of Canadian seniors or one of their family members have talked to a health care provider about access to medical assistance in dying.
  • Almost two-thirds of Canadian seniors surveyed (64%) are confident that they would be able to obtain medical assistance in dying in their community.

“We learn so much from examining how Canadian seniors interact with their health system and by comparing their experiences with those of seniors from other comparable countries. We do see some encouraging signs, particularly in the realm of end-of-life planning and home care, where Canadian seniors largely report that their needs are being met.”

— Tracy Johnson, Director, Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues, Canadian Institute for Health Information

This new report supports CIHI’s commitment to help stakeholders better understand Canada’s seniors 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