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Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts

Many people continue to believe that lifestyle choices, such as being physically active and eating healthy foods, are very important. Equally they may believe that access to medical care and treatment is an important part of what keeps them healthy.

However, evidence that has been building for many years shows that these factors may not be as important as you think. Rather it is our day-to-day living conditions that have the most influence in determining our health. These living conditions are known as the social determinants of health.1


Social Determinants of Health

  • income and income distribution
  • education
  • unemployment and job security
  • employment and working conditions
  • early childhood development
  • food insecurity
  • housing
  • social exclusion
  • social safety net
  • health services
  • Aboriginal status
  • gender
  • race
  • disability

Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts by Dennis Raphael and Juha Mikkonen

The report, “Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts” authored by Dennis Raphael and Juha Mikkonen is part of extensive study and research happening in Canada. If you are concerned about your own health and the health of your family and friends, this report is meant for you.

It outlines how each determinant affects our health, whether at an individual or community level, as well as how the quality of each determinant can be improved.

There is much “food for thought” in this report with examples of findings such as:

  • those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods had death rates that were 28% higher than in the least deprived neighbourhoods
  • 15% of Canadian children are living in poverty which gives Canada a rank of 20th of 30 wealthy developed nations
  • dental plans are only available to 26% of low-income workers
  • recent immigrants of colour experience a greater incidence of housing and food insecurity than Canadians of European descent

The authors urge each of us to think about what can be done to influence government to develop public policies to improve these living conditions that are so important to health. An informed population who knows about the social determinants of health and then raises concerns is one way to get the government to respond.

The entire report can be downloaded in English or French at www.thecanadianfacts.org.

Date of creation: February 10, 2013
Last modified on: February 23, 2018


1Mikkonen,j. and Raphael,D. (2010). Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Toronto: York University School of Health Policy and Management.