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Study: The social determinants of higher mental distress among Inuit, 2012

Released: 2015-11-17

Inuit who reported an experience in the 12 months preceding the survey where health care was needed but not received were more likely to be in higher mental distress than Inuit who did not have an unmet healthcare need, even after controlling for other factors.

Over one-quarter (27%) of Inuit men who reported an unmet health care need were estimated to be in higher mental distress. This compares with 17% with no such experience. For Inuit women with an unmet health care need, close to half (47%) were estimated to be in higher mental distress, while the probability for those without an unmet health care need was just under one-quarter (23%).

These findings, taken from the new study, The Social Determinants of Higher Mental Distress among Inuit, are based on data from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey. The study measures the relationship between mental distress among Inuit and various social, economic and cultural factors.

Chronic conditions, food insecurity and poor family ties are all associated with higher mental distress

Even after controlling for other factors, Inuit who had been diagnosed with a chronic physical condition were more likely to be in higher mental distress than those who had not. Inuit men living with a chronic condition were twice as likely to be in higher mental distress (30%) compared with those who were not (15%).

The same relationship held true for Inuit women, as 36% of Inuit women with a diagnosed chronic condition were estimated to be in higher mental distress compared with 22% of those without such a condition.

Food security refers to the ability to access adequate and suitable food. More than half (53%) of Inuit aged 18 years and older lived in a household with low or very low food security. For Inuit men, more than one-quarter (26%) of those with low or very low food security were estimated to be in higher mental distress compared with 10% of those with moderate or high food security, after adjusting for other factors.

For Inuit women, the probability of being in higher mental distress was greater for those with low or very low food security (30%) compared with those with moderate or high food security (23%).

Stronger family ties tended to correlate with lower mental distress. After adjusting for all other factors, Inuit men who reported strong or very strong family ties were less likely to be in higher mental distress (17%) than those who reported moderate, weak or very weak family ties (23%).

The same was true for Inuit women, as 24% of those with strong or very strong family ties were in higher mental distress compared with 31% of those who reported moderate to very weak ties.

  Note to readers

The Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) is a national survey on the social and economic conditions of Aboriginal peoples (First Nations people living off reserve, Métis and Inuit) aged six years and older. The 2012 APS represents the fourth cycle of the survey and focuses on issues related to education, employment and health.

The article, The Social Determinants of Higher Mental Distress among Inuit, tests the association between the social determinants of health and higher mental distress. Multivariate analysis was conducted to test the association between the social determinants of health and higher mental distress using a logistic regression model.

However, the results are only associations between variables. As a result, it is not possible to determine any causal relationship between mental distress and the social determinants of health.

Mental distress was measured using the K10 Psychological Distress Scale—a non-specific psychological distress measure, which has been used in numerous population-based surveys. The scale uses 10 questions to rate the level of distress from 0 to 40.

Higher mental distress refers to those whose distress score was in the highest quintile in the study population.

Food security refers to the ability to access safe, sufficient and nutritious food. The food security scale was derived from six questions on the 2012 APS.

A chronic condition is defined as a long-term health condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least six months.

Products

The article "The Social Determinants of Higher Mental Distress among Inuit" is now available in the publication Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 2012 (Catalogue number89-653-X). From the Browse by key resource module of our website, choose Publications.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Thomas Anderson (613-404-2591; thomas.anderson@canada.ca), Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.

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