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The average life expectancy for Canadians decreased, and 4 other takeaways from a just-released health report

A new report by Statistics Canada analyzing the status of Canadians’ health found promising changes to the well-being of the population, but also some health disparities among vulnerable groups.

The “Health of Canadians” report, a new product from StatCan that will be updated once a year, was released on Wednesday. Those behind it said they found that while many Canadians are making strides in their overall health, others are reporting issues with their mental health, chronic health conditions and lacking access to a regular health-care provider.

Here are the five key findings of the report:


The data collected mid-way through the pandemic shows the impact of COVID-19, especially when it comes to how long Canadians are living.

The life expectancy for Canadians, which was at a steady incline since the 1980s, began to decline in 2020 and again in 2021, as a direct result of staggering death rates related to COVID-19, as well as substance-related harms that increased during the pandemic. In 2021, the life expectancy at birth dropped to 81.6 from 81.7 in 2020.

Males saw the most significant decrease in life expectancy that year at 0.2 years, with most men now living up to 79.3. The latest data suggests that women, on average, now live to 84 years old.


Despite 59.7 per cent of Canadians self-reporting their general health as excellent, there’s been a decrease in Canadians, of all ages, self-reporting their mental health as equally good since 2015. Respondents, especially those between the ages of 18 and 34, reported the highest decrease between 2015 and 2021, at 21 per cent.

There’s also been an increase in anxiety and other mood disorders, particularly impacting First Nation and Metis people living both on and off a reserve in comparison to non-Indigenous people. In 2021, 20.4 per cent of First Nation people living off reserve and 19.7 per cent of Metis people reported having anxiety, while 10.1 per cent of non-Indigenous people reported having the same health disorder. Additionally, 13.9 per cent of people in the lowest income bracket reported having anxiety and a mood disorder, while less than 10 per cent of those in the highest income group reporting the same.


The rate of lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada, in men has significantly decreased from a reported rate of 72.2 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 62.5 per 100,000 in 2021.

Throughout this five-year span, however, there was an increase in Canadians with chronic conditions like high blood pressure (16.9 per cent to 17.7 per cent), heart disease (4.4 per cent to 4.9 per cent) and obesity (26.1 per cent to 29.2 per cent).

In 2021, Canadians in the lowest income bracket had higher reports of these conditions, as well as arthritis, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions, in comparison to those in a higher income bracket. Canadians with the lowest income also reported higher rates of multimorbidity, which is when a person has three or more chronic conditions.


Canadians over the age of 12 are reporting a decline in meeting their recommended physical activity guidelines and eating their daily portions of fruits and vegetables.

Youths between the age of 12 and 17 reported the highest decline for physical activity, a 14 per cent decrease in activity level in 2021 compared to 2015.

Of the 81.8 per cent of children aged five to 11 whose guardians said they participated in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the span of a week, only 34.9 per cent met the recommended daily 60 minutes of activity.

While this category shows some potentially alarming statistics when it comes to children, there were some positive behaviours reported by adults.

In 2021 Canadians reported a decrease in heavy drinking, with 15.6 per cent saying they drink heavily, in comparison to the 19.2 per cent reported in 2015. There was also a decline in daily and occasionally smokers, from 17.7 per cent to 11.8 per cent.


StatCan’s findings also included that while 85.5 per cent of Canadians having regular access to a health-care provider in 2021, another 14.4 per cent do not. That equates to roughly 4.7 million people who are still in need of a family doctor.

Among the Canadians most impacted are those who are bisexual or pansexual, First Nations people living off reserve and those in racialized communities, according to the data.

Additionally, 2.5 million Canadians reported feeling they couldn’t get their health-care needs met in the past 12 months. Compared to the rest of Canada, residents of the Atlantic provinces were most likely to say they were unable to get their health-care needs met.

Also highlighted in the StatCan report is a rising concern for meeting the aging population’s home-care needs. About 3.2 per cent of Canadians surveyed in 2021 reported using home-care services, but 1.6 per cent reported unmet needs.

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