Economic downturn affecting health of Canadians, says poll

Worries about the global economic downturn may be keeping Canadians awake at night and affecting their overall health, suggests a new poll done for the Canadian Medical Association.

SASKATOON — Worries about the global economic downturn may be keeping Canadians awake at night and affecting their overall health, suggests a new poll done for the Canadian Medical Association.

According to a survey by Ipsos Reid, one quarter of Canadians, or 23 per cent, suggested they’re losing sleep over their economic worries — roughly the same number who indicated the downturn is affecting how they take care of their health.

The poll suggests the less education a person has, the more they toss and turn at night, fretting over their financial future.

About 33 per cent of those without a university degree report losing sleep this way.

The statistics are part of the association’s annual National Report Card on Health Care in Canada.

The polling firm conducted a telephone survey of 1,002 Canadian adults between June 7 and 9 and surveyed another 3,223 people online between June 25 and July 11.

While 57 per cent of Canadians worry about their financial security, 52 per cent said they are also concerned about their health.

About 27 per cent worry they’ll lose their job, the poll suggests.

Two in five Canadians indicate they’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by financial concerns and that may be more keenly felt by people earning less than $30,000 per year.

The recession appears to be hitting lower-income earners especially hard, with 32 per cent of them reporting they’ve spent less money on food as household budgets tighten.

One in five Canadians indicate they’ve skipped meals as a result of financial concerns and 28 per cent of those in the lowest income brackets suggested they have gone without food for this reason.

The poll also suggests visits to the dentist are taking a hit, with 25 per cent of Canadians reporting they’ve delayed or cancelled an appointment because of a lack of cash.

“This year, the CMA’s report card shows that these tough economic times could also be a serious health hazard for Canadians,” Robert Ouellet, the organization’s president, said in a news release.

“There is a mistaken impression that health care is somehow insulated from today’s harsh economic reality. Our polling results show that’s just not the case.”

Still, with all that financial stress bearing down on them, about 79 per cent of Canadians report that their health is good, very good or excellent and that sense of well-being may increase the higher a person’s income bracket.

A whopping 56 per cent of those surveyed indicated they consider themselves overweight.

While most rate their health as good, there appears to be a significant number of Canadians, or about 20 per cent, who may not be feeling so hot and that’s worrisome, said Ouellet.

“The significant numbers of Canadians identifying themselves as being in fair or poor health show that we are not doing enough as a nation to keep our population healthy,” he said.

Obese and overweight individuals significantly increase their chances of having serious health issues crop up as they age, Ouellet said.

“Canada must do more to help Canadians live longer, healthier lives and that begins with tackling our obesity epidemic.”

While most recognize that eating right can prevent disease, help deal with stress and even add years to their lives, about 72 per cent of those surveyed suggested it also costs more to eat healthy foods.

The association’s report also indicates how Canadians may be feeling about the level of health care they’re receiving.

About 67 per cent of those surveyed gave the health care services they receive top marks, compared to 66 per cent last year.

There was some improvement in the proportion of Canadians willing to hand out an A grade for such services as emergency room care, access to walk in clinics and medical specialists and access to diagnostic equipment.

Many Canadians said they’re still waiting too long for a variety of services, from seeing a specialist, to getting diagnostic tests and elective surgery.

Provincial governments received more top marks in all regions than the federal government, except in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the poll suggested.

Ipsos Reid said the telephone survey was considered accurate within 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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