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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
For many years, researchers have been unable to properly estimate basic health indicators such as life expectancy at birth for Canada's Inuit population, because of a lack of Aboriginal identifiers on death registrations.
A new study, published today in Health Reports, partially fills this data gap by using a geographic-based approach to estimate life expectancy for the entire population of Inuit-inhabited areas of Canada.
The study analysed death records and census data in the four areas of Canada, where 80% of their combined populations are Inuit. These "Inuit-inhabited areas" are: the Inuvialuit region (of Northwest Territories), Nunavut, Nunatsiavut (Labrador) and Nunavik (northern Quebec). The study found that life expectancy in these areas in 2001 was over 12 years less than for Canada as a whole, a gap that had widened during the previous decade.
In 1991, life expectancy in the Inuit-inhabited areas was about 68 years, 10 years less than for Canada as a whole. From 1991 to 2001, life expectancy in the Inuit-inhabited areas did not increase, although life expectancy rose by about two years for Canada overall.
Among the four areas, life expectancy was generally highest in the Inuvialuit region and Nunavut, followed by Nunatsiavut and Nunavik.
The findings for the Inuit-inhabited areas do not distinguish life expectancy for Inuit from that of non-Inuit people. However, if the life expectancy of the non-Inuit population (who make up about 20% of the population in the four areas combined) is assumed to be the same as in the rest of Canada, then, taking into account the relative population sizes of each group, the life expectancy of Inuit residents would have been 64.2 years, or 15 years less than for Canada as a whole.
Analysis of the 2001 Census data revealed lower levels of education and income and poorer housing conditions for the Inuit-inhabited areas compared with Canada as a whole. Any or all of these, in addition to lifestyle risk factors and environmental conditions, could be at least partly responsible for the lower life expectancy in those areas.
In the three five-year periods studied, from 1989 through 2003, the infant mortality rate was approximately four times higher in the Inuit-inhabited areas, compared with all of Canada. However, the absolute difference in those rates fell by 30% from 1989 to 1993 to 1999 to 2003.
The study "Life expectancy in the Inuit-inhabited areas of Canada, 1989 to 2003," which is part of today's Health Reports, Vol. 19, no. 1, online release, is now available (82-003-XWE, free) from the Publications module of our website.
For more information about Health Reports, contact Christine Wright (613-951-1765; firstname.lastname@example.org), Health Information and Research Division.
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this article, contact Russell Wilkins (613-951-5305, email@example.com) or Philippe Finès (613-951-3896, firstname.lastname@example.org), Health Information and Research Division, or Éric Guimond (819-956-9344, email@example.com), Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.