Chapter 3: The Chief Public Health Officer's report on the state of public health in Canada 2008 – Who we are

Our Population, Our Health and the Distribution of Our Health

The 2007-2008 United Nations Human Development Index – which considers life expectancy, education and standard of living – ranks Canada fourth overall out of 177 countries.125 Despite this ranking, some negative health trends in Canada are worsening and there continues to be an uneven distribution of health across the population. This chapter gives an overview of the Canadian population and the overall health of the nation, including the main causes of disease, death and disability, and how Canada compares with others health-wise on an international level. The factors influencing these health trends are explored in Chapter 4.

Who we are

According to the 2006 Census, there are over 31.6 million people in Canada.126 A diverse population, Canada’s inhabitants can trace their ethnic roots to the four corners of the world and claim more than 200 languages as their mother tongue.127 Canada is so big it spans six time zones yet, even though it is the second largest country in the world in terms of land area, it ranks only 36th in terms of population.128

Aboriginal Peoples account for close to 4% of the population. About 60% identified themselves as First Nations, 33% as Métis, 4% as Inuit and 3% as Other or a combination of Aboriginal identities in the last Census.129

In the nine-year period between 1997 and 2005 there were approximately 3 million births and 2 million deaths in Canada.130, 131 During the same period, more than 2 million new immigrants arrived.132

Most Canadians live in urban settings with over 80% of the population residing in towns and cities.133 It is a growing trend. Since 2001, nearly 90% of the country’s population growth has been concentrated in Canada’s large census metropolitan areas.134

The population is also aging. The number of Canadians aged 65 years and older has more than doubled since 1970 and their share of the population has increased from 8 to 14% in the same period.135 Children under 10 years of age (11%) and youth between the ages of 10 and 19 years (13%) account for less than one quarter of the population, while young- and middle-aged adults aged 20 to 64 years make up 62% of the population.126 Figure 3.1 highlights how the age distribution of Canada’s population has changed since the early 1970s when a larger portion of the population was found in the younger age groups compared to today when most of the population falls within the middle and older age groups.135 An exception to this trend can be found among Aboriginal Peoples who have a much younger population.136

Figure 3.1 Population distribution by age, Canada, 1971 and 2006

Figure 1 - Population distribution by age, Canada, 1971 and 2006

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada using Health Canada’s Data
Analysis and Information System (DAIS), Statistic Canada. CANSIM Table

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