Does wealth equal health?

CMA recently released poll results that were used to compile the 2012 National Report Card on the Canadian healthcare system. The poll, conducted by Ipsos-Reid, found that optimal health is directly aligned with how healthy your paycheck is.

“When  it comes to the well-being of Canadians, the old saying that wealth equals health continues to ring true,” said CMA President, John Haggie, in a recent release.

The results showed that Canadians with lower incomes generally report poorer health than those with a high income level — and held a negative view on their health status in comparison to their wealthy counterparts. Canadians with lower incomes also use health services more frequently than wealthier individuals.

While 68 per cent of those earning $60,000 a year or more described their health as very good or excellent, only 39 per cent of those earning less than $30,000 a year said the same.

Just three years ago the CMA reported no difference between income levels and how frequently each group accessed health services — but today, there is a significant gap in this area.

The report showed that 43 percent of those earning $60,000 or more accessed health services in the past month, while that number rose to 60 per cent for those earning less than $30,000.

Haggie noted that, “What is particularly worrisome for Canada’s doctors is that in a nation as prosperous as Canada, the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ appears to be widening.”

The economic downturn also appears to have an effect on health as 46 per cent of those earning less than $30,000 reported they spend less time, money and energy sustaining their health since the economy has slowed.  Only 19 per cent of those with an income of $60,000 or more reported the same.

Some explanation for the gap can also be found in the poll results: 24 per cent of those in the lower income bracket noted they had either stopped or delayed buying their prescription drugs, while just 3 per cent of the higher income group reported the same.

The poll also found that tobacco use rose sharply based on income, with 33 per cent of those in the lower income group reporting daily tobacco use, compared to just 10 per cent in the wealthy group.

Education was also found to be a contributing factor to one’s health, as those with a high school diploma or less were found to spend almost twice as much as those with a university education on their health.

“We as Canadians tend to think we have a fair society and an equitable public health care system when in reality there are vast numbers of Canadians who are forced to do without when it comes to health care,” Haggie continued. “That is why the physicians of Canada are pressing for the transformation of health and health care – so that patient needs truly can be put first.”

Interestingly, when it came to grading the Canadian health care system, age seemed to greatly affect the results. While overall, 74 per cent of respondents gave it a B or higher – a four point improvement over 2011 – zoomers and seniors were most likely to give the system an A at 47 per cent, while those aged 35 to 54 were least likely at 32 per cent.

The results came from a compilation of survey answers taken from a telephone poll of 1200 Canadians conducted between July 25 and 30th, as well as an online poll of 1,004 Canadians conducted between July 23 and 30th.

Watch CBC talk about the findings below:

Sources: Canadian Medical Association, CBC, CTV

Photo © Bajic

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