Monday, December 03, 2007

1 out of every 7 Canadian has a Disability

So says the latest report out of Stats Canada today (entitled "Participation and Activity Limitation Survey").

This story in today's Globe notes that while "one factor in the increase is the aging of the population, Stats Can says this played only a partial role, and that increased social acceptance of reporting disabilities may also be a factor". That may be so, but the chart (see left) from the report illustrates that, in the overall picture of things, aging clearly plays the most significant role in the story of disability. And so we can expect this number to continue to rise as Canada's population ages.

...Actually, as I was looking for some stats on the age of our population I came across this recent report from Stats Canada which notes that "Canada's population continues to age, but it is still one of the youngest of the world's developed nations, according to new preliminary estimates".

There seems to be something odd about the points emphasized in these two Stat Can reports. The first report tries to downplay the role aging plays in disability by noting that other factors explain the increase. That may be true, but it doesn't detract from the fact that, overall, aging is the biggest cause of disability. And then this report on our aging population offers (what I assume is intended to be) some solace by pointing out that we are younger than other developed countries, like Japan. But so what? This fact doesn't mean Canadians should feel content with the status quo, or that we don't need to take the steps necessary to mitigate the disadvantages that come from aging. From these two reports, it seems that there are some "age-deniers" at Stats Canada!

The scientific consensus is in- aging results in lots of bad things (like disease, frailty and death). It has a profound impact on the health prospects of our population and on our economy. And now is the time for us to talk sensibly about what we can do to alter this situation. One could say, to borrow Gore's famous title, aging is "an inconvenient truth". And we cannot afford to ignore it.