While overall Canadians are living longer and healthier lives, there has been a notable decline in mental health over the last few years, according to the first Statistics Canada report on the health of Canadians.
The report has good and bad news, such as heart disease is on the rise, but lung cancer is down. Many of us aren’t reaching physical health goals, but smoking and heavy drinking are on the way out.
Here are the top five highlights from the StatCan report released this week:
Canadians are living longer and healthier lives, but life expectancy fell by more than half a year in 2020, the largest single-year decline in Canada since 1921. While life expectancy had been rising over the last four decades in Canada, it declined in 2020 and continued to decrease in 2021 because of COVID-19 and increased deaths associated with the opioid public health crisis. In 2021, life expectancy at birth was 81.6 years overall, with men living an average of just over 79 years and women an average of 84 years.
Poor mental health
Most Canadians rate their overall health as very good or excellent, according to the report but mental health has declined, and the prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders has increased among vulnerable populations.
More than half (59.7 per cent) of Canadians aged 12-years-and-older rated their general health as very good or excellent in 2021 but the number of people reporting very good or excellent mental health decreased to 59 per cent in 2021 from 72.4 per cent in 2020. This decline was observed across all age groups, and especially among adults aged 18 to 34 years who reported a 21-percentage-point decrease.
In 2021, over 3.4 million Canadians aged 12-years-and-older (10.4 per cent) reported having been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and over 3.1 million (9.6 per cent) reported having been diagnosed with a mood disorder, according to StatCan.
Chronic disease up, lung cancer down
The report says some chronic diseases increased from 2015 to 2021, including high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. However, the lung cancer rate among men declined to 62.5 per 100,000 in 2021 from 72.2 per 100,000 in 2015.
In 2021, more people in lower income households than those in wealthier families reported having arthritis, high blood pressure, and diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke.
One-in-12 Canadians (8.3 per cent) experienced multi-morbidity, which involves having three or more chronic conditions. That was up from 7.5 per cent in 2015.
Exercise waning, but fewer people smoking
StatCan says engaging in a certain level of physical activity, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, decreased alcohol consumption and smoking all contribute to a lower risk of death and chronic illness.
However, from 2015 to 2021, the number of Canadians aged 12-years-and-older who met physical activity guidelines slid to 53.9 per cent from 56.9 per cent, as those who consumed more than five fruits and vegetables per day also dropped to 21.8 per cent from 31.5 per cent.
For physical activity, the decline was most pronounced among youth aged 12 to 17 years.
While exercise slumped, other health behaviours improved, according to StatCan. In 2021, 15.6 per cent of Canadians aged 12-years-and-older engaged in heavy drinking, down from 19.2 per cent in 2015. The proportion of daily or occasional smokers also declined, down to 11.8 per cent in 2021 from 17.7 per cent in 2015.
Health-care needs not being met
While 85.5 per cent of Canadians living in the provinces had a regular health-care provider in 2021, 14.4 per cent did not, the report said. Groups who reported lower numbers of not having a regular health-care provider include members of the LGBTQ+ community, and First Nations, Latin American and Filipino people.
In 2021, almost 2.5 million Canadians had unmet health-care needs, meaning they felt that they needed health care in the past 12 months, but didn’t receive it, said StatCan.
Unmet health-care needs were more prevalent in the Atlantic provinces (10.7 per cent), compared with the rest of Canada. More women than men reported unmet health-care needs.
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