Health Fact Sheets
Unmet health care needs, 2014

Release date: February 9, 2016

In 2014, roughly 3.4 million Canadians aged 12 and older (11.2%) reported that they did not receive health care when they felt they needed it. Overall, females (12.4%) were more likely than males (10.0%) to have reported an unmet health care need. Among age groups, unmet health care needs were lowest for those aged 12 to 19 and those aged 65 or older, and were highest for those aged 20 to 54. (Chart 1).

Chart 1 Unmet health care needs, by sex and selected age group, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2014
Description for Chart 1

The title of the graph is "Chart 1 Unmet health care needs, by sex and selected age group, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2014."
This is a column clustered chart.
There are in total 7 categories in the horizontal axis. The vertical axis starts at 0 and ends at 18 with ticks every 2 points.
There are 2 series in this graph.
The vertical axis is "percent."
The horizontal axis is "Age group."
The title of series 1 is "Males."
The minimum value is 5.0 and it corresponds to "12 to 19."
The maximum value is 12.7 and it corresponds to "20 to 34."
The title of series 2 is "Females."
The minimum value is 7.2 and it corresponds to "12 to 19."
The maximum value is 15.5 and it corresponds to "35 to 44."

Data table for Chart 1
Age Males Females
Total (12 or older) 10.0 12.4
12 to 19 5.0 7.2
20 to 34 12.7 15.3
35 to 44 10.0 15.5
45 to 54 12.4 13.9
55 to 64 9.7 12.5
65 or older 7.6 7.6

The three most reported reasonsNote 1 for respondents not having had their most recent health care need met were that wait times were too long (33.4%), health care services were unavailable at the time required (13.7%) and the cost (11.4%).

In 2014, Canadians who felt they needed health care but didn’t receive it attempted to get health care services from a number of placesNote 2. For those Canadians, 40.8% were unable to get service at a doctor’s office. Other commonly reported places where Canadians could not get the health care they felt they needed included walk-in clinics (15.2%) and hospital emergency rooms (12.4%) (Chart 2).

Chart 2 Unmet health care needs by type of health care facility where service was sought, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2014
Description for Chart 2

The title of the graph is "Chart 2 Unmet health care needs by type of health care facility where service was sought, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2014."
This is a column clustered chart.
There are in total 7 categories in the horizontal axis. The vertical axis starts at 0 and ends at 45 with ticks every 5 points.
There is 1 series in this graph.
The vertical axis is "percent."
The horizontal axis is "Type of health care facility."
The title of series 1 is "Care facility."
The minimum value is 5.8 and it corresponds to "Community health centre/CLSC."
The maximum value is 40.8 and it corresponds to "Doctor's office."

Data table for Chart 2
Care facility percent
Doctor's office 40.8
Community health centre/CLSC 5.8
Walk-in clinic 15.2
Appointment clinic 7.7
Hospital emergency room 12.4
Hospital outpatient clinic 7.7
Other 23.8

The largest proportion of reported unmet needsNote 3 was for the treatment of physical health problems (65.1%). Other types of unmet needs included treatment for emotional or mental health problems (11.4%), regular checkups (9.4%) and treatments for injuries (8.8%).

Unmet health care needs by province and territory

Compared to the national average (11.2%), the following provinces had lower reported rates of unmet health care needs:

The following province and territory had higher rates than the national average:

Other provinces and territoriesNote 4 reported rates that were about the same as the national average.

Income and unmet health care needs

Across the ten provinces, Canadians with lower incomes were more likely to have reported an unmet health care need (12.8%) than those with middle or higher incomes (10.2%).

However, in 2014 these differences were not significant in every province. Those with lower incomes were more likely to have reported an unmet health care need in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and western Canada, there was no significant difference between the income groups (Chart 3).

Chart 3 Unmet health care needs, by province, by income, household population aged 12 or older, Canada (excluding territories), 2014
Description for Chart 3

The title of the graph is "Chart 3 Unmet health care needs, by province, by income, household population aged 12 or older, Canada (excluding territories), 2014."
This is a column clustered chart.
There are in total 11 categories in the horizontal axis. The vertical axis starts at 0 and ends at 18 with ticks every 2 points.
There are 2 series in this graph.
The vertical axis is "percent."
The horizontal axis is "Province."
The title of series 1 is "Lower income."
The minimum value is 8.7 and it corresponds to "Sask.."
The maximum value is 15.4 and it corresponds to "Que.."
The title of series 2 is "Middle or higher income."
The minimum value is 6.3 and it corresponds to "N.B.."
The maximum value is 13.1 and it corresponds to "Que.."

Data table for Chart 3
Provinces Lower income Middle or higher income
N.L. 10.0 6.7Note E: Use with caution
P.E.I. 13.5 8.8
N.S. 13.8Note * 7.7
N.B. 12.8Note * 6.3
Que. 15.4Note * 13.1
Ont. 11.5Note * 9.5
Man. 11.0 9.9
Sask. 8.7 6.9
Alta. 11.5 9.2
B.C. 13.3 11.1
All provinces 12.8Note * 10.2

Who is more likely to have an unmet health care need?

Other characteristics were also associated with higher rates of unmet healthcare needs in 2014. For example, not having a regular medical doctor, being an Aboriginal person,Note 5 being an overnight patient at a healthcare facilityNote 6 or having at least one chronic conditionNote 7 resulted in higher rates of reported unmet health care needs. There was no statistically significant difference in the proportion of Canadians reporting unmet healthcare needs between immigrant populations and non-immigrant populations or between those that lived in population centres and rural areas (Table 1).

Table 1
Unmet health care needs by selected characteristics, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2014
Table summary
This table displays the results of Unmet health care needs by selected characteristics. The information is grouped by Selected characteristic (appearing as row headers), percentage (appearing as column headers).
Selected characteristic percentage
Geographic regions  
Population centre 11.4
Rural 10.4
Aboriginal status  
Aboriginal 16.2Note table 1 *
Non-Aboriginal 11.2
Immigration status  
Immigrant 10.5
Non-immigrant 11.5
Medical doctor  
Has a regular doctor 10.0
No regular doctor 18.2Note table 1 *
Overnight patient  
Overnight patient in health care facility 19.0Note table 1 *
Not an overnight patient 10.6
Chronic conditions  
At least one chronic condition 14.0Note table 1 *
No chronic condition 7.6
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