Quick Facts - First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS) 2002/03

First Nations population...

  • One fifth of the First Nations population is 19 years old or younger. This is double the proportion of young people in the Canadian population.
  • There are a much smaller proportion of seniors (aged 60 years and above) in First Nation communities, amounting to only 3.3% of the total population. In the Canadian population, 8.8% are seniors;
  • Marital Status and Family Structure...
  • Almost a third of First Nation adults are married, and 19% in common law relationships. Combined married and common-law status accounts for fifty percent of First Nation adults. Forty percent of the Canadian population is legally married (Census 2001).
  • First Nation men were more likely to be single (40.7%) compared to First Nation women (33.5%). Compared to men, women were more likely to have been previously married (11.6%). The higher rate of single men coincides with the rest of Canada, though there is a lower percentage of single adults in First Nation communities (rest of Canada men 50% women 43%)(Census 2001).
  • Almost all First Nations children live with one or both of their parents, accounting for 95.6% of the data. Of those, forty percent of First Nations children grow up in a single parent household compared with around 20% for Canadian children (Census 2001);

 

Education, Employment and Income...

  • Over fifty percent of First Nation adults did not graduate from high school, compared to 33.2% in the Canadian population.
  • Only 27.4% of First Nations adults completed a diploma or a Bachelors degree, compared with 40.1% of the Canadian population.
  • 6.7% of First Nation females completed a university degree, compared to 3.7% of First Nations males.
  • Isolated communities had a higher proportion of First Nation adults who did not completed high school (65.6%), compared to non-isolated communities (47.8%).

 

Language and Tradition...

  • About half of First Nation adults understood at least one First Nation language 'relatively well' or 'fluently'.
  • Compared to older age groups, younger generations of First Nations understand a First Nation language, 'relatively well' or 'fluently'.
  • One in four of First Nations children can understand a First Nations language 'relatively well or fluently, compared to 70.5% of First Nations seniors;

 

Housing...

  • Two-thirds (65.6%) of First Nations adults reported that their house was in need of some type of repair.
  • One in three (33.6%) First Nations adults reported that their house needed major repairs.
  • People reporting lower incomes were more likely to live in housing requiring major repairs, compared to those with higher incomes.

 

Basic household Amenities...

  • More than half of First Nations households do not have a computer and 7 out of 10 do not have an internet connection (see Figure 10).
  • Almost one in five (18.3%) of First Nations households do not have telephone service in their homes, compared to 3% in the rest of Canada. In remote-isolated First Nations households, over a third of households (34.4%) do not have a telephone with services.
  • 3.5% of First Nation households do not have cold running water or a flush toilet.

 

Chronic Disease...

  • Compared to the general Canadian population, First Nation adults have a higher frequency of arthritis/rheumatism, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, cataracts, chronic bronchitis, and cancer.
  • One in four First Nation adults has arthritis/rheumatism.
  • One in five First Nation adults has high blood pressure.

 

Diabetes...

  • The frequency (prevalence) of diabetes among First Nations adults is nearly four times as great as the general Canadian population. The general prevalence of diabetes in First Nation adults is 19.7%.
  • One in three First Nations adults aged 50-59 years have diabetes.
  • First Nation females have a higher prevalence of diabetes compared to First Nation males across all age categories.
  • Diabetes is most prevalent among the senior First Nations females (37.6%).
  • Treatments for diabetes used by First Nation adults include: pills (68%), diet (65.5%), exercise (52.9%), insulin (16.7%), traditional medicines (12.9%), and traditional healers/ceremonies (6.0%).
  • Nearly nine out of ten First Nation adults report adverse consequences related to their diabetes, including vision problems, problems with legs and feet, kidney function and infection, and heart problems.

 

Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity...

  • About one in four First Nation adults are a healthy weight (within the normal range of BMI).
  • First Nation female adults are more likely to be obese (34.3%) or morbidly obese (6.8%), compared to First Nation males.
  • Over 40% of First Nation males are overweight.
  • Over half of First Nations youth are normal or underweight (57.8%). 28% of First Nation youth are overweight, and 14.1% are obese. Nine percent of Canada youth are considered obese (CCHS: nutrition, 2004).
  • The majority of First Nations children are of normal weight or underweight (41.5%). 22% of First Nations children are overweight and 36% of First Nations children are obese.

 

Injuries...

  • First Nation youth have the highest incidence of injuries, with almost half of the population (49.5%) reporting an injury requiring medical attention.
  • The most common causes of injury in First Nation youth are: falls (20.7%), sports (20.1%), motor vehicles (11.9%), bicycles (10.8%), burns (7.6%), and assault (5.3%).
  • The most common causes of injury in First Nations children are: falls (7.6%), riding a bicycle (2.8%), sports (2.1%) and motor vehicle incidents (1.5%).
  • The leading causes of injury among First Nations adults are: falls (10.7%), sports (6.2%), motor vehicles (5.4%) and domestic violence (4.8%).

 

Dental Care...

  • Over forty percent of First Nations adults (41.8%) did not have any dental care in the past year.
  • First Nations men were less likely than women to have received any dental care in the past year.
  • First Nations who did not complete high school were less likely than those who completed a university degree to have received any dental care in the past year (45.5% verses 35.0%).
  • Almost one in five First Nation children has never had any dental care.
  • There is a high prevalence of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay in First Nations communities, reaching 11.9% of First Nations children (of those less than three years old).
  • First Nations who were unemployed were 10% less likely than those who were employed (full time) to have received any dental care in the past year.
  • The most common types of dental work needed by First Nation adults are: general maintenance (48.8%), cavities/restorative work (36.9%), and prosthetic work.
  • Urgent dental care was required by 5.5% of First Nation adults.

 

Smoking and Tobacco Use...

  • Almost half of all First Nations are daily smokers (46.0%), with an additional 12.8% self-identifying as occasional smokers. In comparison, 21.8% of the larger Canadian population are smokers (CCHS, 2005).
  • Younger First Nations adults, aged 18-29 years, have the highest proportion of daily smokers (53.9%). This rate is much higher than the Canadian
proportion for the same age group (28% smokers in the 18-34 age group) (CCHS, 2005).
  • There are significantly fewer daily smokers in the older age categories (23.5% for age 60+) compared to the younger age groups.
  • There is a higher prevalence of smoking among First Nation female youth across all age groups.
  • 36.6% of First Nations children were exposed to some maternal smoking use.
  • There are higher proportions of smokers in First Nation youth with increasing age.

 

Drug and Alcohol Use...

  • Alcohol consumption is highest in young First Nation adults, with 82.9% drinking in the past year. There is a decrease in the consumption of alcohol in the older age groups.
  • Over a third of First Nation adults did not consume alcohol in the past year (34.4%) compared to 20.7% in the Canadian population.
  • First Nation males were twice as likely to be weekly drinkers (22.8%) compared to First Nation females (11.9%).
  • One in five First Nation males report heavy drinking (five or more drinks) on a weekly basis.
  • One in three First Nation youth self-reported using cannabis (marijuana, weed, grass) in the past year. Along a similar line, the heaviest users of cannabis in the First Nation adult population were in the youngest age group (age 18 to 39 years), where 29% of males reported using on a daily basis.
  • In general, 26.7% of First Nation adults used marijuana over the past year, compared to 14.1% in the Canadian population.

 

Health Care Access...

  • One in three First Nation adults reported that they encountered waiting lists which were too long.
  • One in five First Nation adults experienced a barrier to health care because they sought treatment not covered by the non-insured health benefits (NIHB) program.
  • Nearly one in five First Nation adults had no doctor or nurse available in their area (18.5%).
  • Women are more likely than men to experience difficulties with:
long waiting lists;
the availability of a doctor or nurse in their area;
seeking approval for NIHB covered services;
arranging for and costs of transportation; and
the costs of childcare.

 

Non-insured Health Benefits...

  • Half of all First Nations adults reported at least one problem in accessing NIHB funded services within the past year.
  • The most prevalent problems with accessing NIHB funded services are related to medication, dental care, and vision care.
  • Women were significantly more likely than men to have problems with NIHB funded serviced such as: accessing medication (20.1%), vision care (19.4%), dental care (19.1%) and transportation services or costs (11.3%).

 

Disability...

  • The age-adjusted prevalence of disability is 31.3% for First Nation females and 25.7% for First Nation males.
  • Overall, the proportion of First Nations adults living with a disability is 1.6 times greater than the general Canadian population (NPHS 1998/991).
  • At all ages, a higher proportion of First Nations adults are living with a disability compared to the general Canadian population.
  • One in three First Nation adults have trouble assessing health care because the service was not covered by NIHB.
  • First Nations with disabilities are twice as likely to have problems with the direct costs of the service (22.4%), costs of transportation (23.1%), and arranging transportation (23.3%) compared to First Nation adults with no reported disabilities.

 

Mental Health...

  • First Nation adults, felt in balance physically (70.9%), in balance emotionally (71.0%), in balance spiritually (69.0%), and in balance mentally (75.0%).
  • 30.1% of First Nation adults felt sad, blue, or depressed for two weeks or more in a row.
  • 37.9% of First Nation adults self-reported instances of racism in the past 12 months.
  • Most First Nation adults sought emotional or mental support from their immediate family (60.6%) or from a friend (60.0%). Fifteen percent of First Nation adults sought emotional or mental support from a traditional healer, with 23.5% receiving support from their family physicians.
  • Overall 30.9% of First Nation adults reported having suicidal thoughts over their lifetime.
  • Fifteen percent of First Nation adults reported attempting suicide in their lives, and First Nation females were more likely to have attempted suicide (18.5%) compared to First Nation males (13.1%).
  • More than one in four First Nation youths reported sad, blue or depressed feelings for two weeks in a row (27.2%).
  • Twenty-one percent of First Nation youths had thoughts of suicide.
  • 9.6% of First Nation youths have attempted suicide.

 

Residential Schools...

  • One in five of First Nation adults surveyed attend residential school (20.3%). The average length of stay was around 5 years (4.8 years).
  • One third of First Nation youth reported that one or more parents attended residential school (33.1%).

 

Sexual Health...

  • The majority of First Nation adults in common-law relationship were sexually active (90.4%). Four out of five married First Nation adults were sexually active (79.1%), and seventy percent of single people were sexually active.
  • Over a third of First Nation adults have been tested for HIV over their lifetime (34.2%).
  • 28.4% of First Nation youth were sexually active at the time of the survey. Thirty percent of First Nation youths had sexual intercourse in the past 12 months.
  • One in five First Nation youth who had sexual intercourse in the past year used the birth control pill. Ten percent of First Nation youth used no form of birth control.
  • Two thirds of First Nation youth report always using a condom (66.6%).

 

Seniors (age 55+)...

  • First Nation seniors are more than twice as likely to report themselves to be in fair or poor health compared to their younger counterparts (41.0% vs. 16.5%).
  • Eighty-five percent of First Nation seniors reported having one or more chronic conditions. Two thirds of First Nation seniors reported having two or more chronic conditions.
  • Sixty-five percent of First Nation seniors did not graduate from high school.
  • Seven out of ten First Nation seniors can understand a First Nation language, and nearly the same proportion can speak a First Nations language.

 

Gender Differences...

  • First Nation males were more likely to consume alcohol at least once a week (22.8% vs. 11.9%), more likely to consume fast food daily (10.7% vs. 5.1%) and more likely to have used marijuana (33.8% vs. 19.4%), compared to their female counterparts.
  • A greater proportion of First Nation males reported adequate levels of physical activity compared to First Nation females (26.7% vs. 15.2%).
  • First Nations males were also less likely to be obese or morbidly obese,
compared to First Nation females (31.8% vs. 41.1%).
  • First Nation adult females were more likely to have accessed health and dental services, compared to First Nation adult males. Around sixty percent of females had a blood sugar test in the past 12 months, compared to 46.6% of males. Also, a greater proportion of females had an eye or vision exam, a blood pressure test, dental check-up and/or a complete physical, compared to males.
  • First Nation females were more likely to report barriers when accessing health care, compared to First Nation males (60.4% vs. 51.6%)

 

Early Childhood...

  • One in twenty First Nation children were of low-birth weight (5.5%), which is similar to the broader Canadian average of 5.6% (NLSCY, 1999). Low birth weight children were more likely to have mothers that smoked heavily (more than 20 cigarettes a day).
  • A greater proportion of First Nation children are classified as high-birth weight compared to Canadian children (21.1% vs. 13.1%)
  • 62.5% of First Nation children are breastfed. This is an improvement over the rate of breastfeeding reported in the RHS 1997 (50%). The average Canadian rate of breastfeeding is 79.9% (NLSCY, 1999).
  • Compared to First Nation children who were not breastfed, children who were breastfed were more often in excellent/very good health (73.1% vs. 66.8%), more likely to be an acceptable weight (33.3% vs. 26.6%), and less likely to report chronic bronchitis or chronic ear infections (10.8% vs. 14.4%).

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