The richest 20% in Canada live longer and healthier than the rest of us

Brent Patterson
6 years ago

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted a Toronto Star article:

It is likely that the impact of this wealth disparity on our health is also greater than most people realize too.

A Statistics Canada report says, "Income is a well-established health determinant — people with lower incomes tend to experience less favourable health outcomes, including poorer self-rated health, higher prevalence of disease, and decreased life expectancy, than do people with higher incomes. Income influences health most directly through access to material resources such as better quality food and shelter."

The report found that if 80 per cent of Canadians were as healthy as the top 20 per cent of income earners in Canada, there would be 40,000 fewer deaths per year. That's 110 fewer deaths every day. The report also found that a poor man has a 67 per cent greater chance and a poor woman has a 52 per cent greater chance of dying than a wealthy man or woman. The poor have a greater chance of dying from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, respiratory disease, injuries and HIV-AIDS.

Dennis Raphael, a professor of health policy and management at York University in Toronto, and Toba Bryant, an assistant professor of health sciences at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, write that, "Politicians at all levels ignore the relationship between income inequality and health. This is reluctance to talk about the distribution of wealth, and the efforts required to address these health inequities. ...Income inequality is not only bad for our quality of life and economic productivity, it is directly related to the deaths of Canadians on an almost unimaginable scale."

Instead of this being addressed, wealth inequality is growing within Canada.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that the richest 86 individuals and families in Canada have now accumulated as much wealth as the country's poorest 11.4 million people. Fifteen years ago, the richest 86 had as much money as the poorest 10.1 million.

Last year, the Globe and Mail reported, "An analysis of top earners shows their annual incomes have more than doubled over the past three decades while the median taxpayer’s income has changed very little... Declining unionization has contributed to wage inequality, while government policy has also played a role, with cuts to transfers and lower marginal tax rates since the 1980s making Canada’s tax-and-benefit system far less of an equalizer than in past decades, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development."

A piece of good news is that 85 per cent of Canadians believe this wealth gap to be a problem that should be addressed.For Council of Canadians' campaign blogs that note the social determinants of health, please click here. For information on our campaign to defend and expand public health care, click here. ‎And to read a report by Council of Canadians health care campaigner Michael Butler and Dr. Ryan Meili on "good health outcomes start with upstream thinking", please click here.