Life Expectancy at Birth

Life expectancy at birth is an internationally recognized indicator for the health of a population. Figure 9 shows significant variations across countries, Canadian provinces, urban centres in Canada and neighbourhoods in Montréal, where the life expectancy gap at birth is 13 years. In all cases, life expectancy relates to some of the key issues to be reviewed later including socio-economic factors such as education, employment and income.

Figure 09: Life Expectancy at Birth for Men Living in Various Settings
Figure 10: Projected Life Expectancy at Birth (1980-2001)

Significant gaps in life expectancy are observed around the world. A recent study from the World Health Organization11 presented data for two neighbourhoods in Glasgow, Scotland, where the gap in life expectancy at birth was established at 25 years. In Australia, the life expectancy at birth for Indigenous Australians is 17 years shorter than for non-Indigenous Australians12.

Figure 10 illustrates the life expectancy at birth for First Nations and Canadians. It highlights the following:

  • Life expectancy for First Nations is lower than for other Canadians, but the gap is closing.
  • As with the Canadian population, First Nations women can expect a longer life than First Nations men.

Figure 10 shows that the gap in life expectancy between First Nations and Canadians has been almost halved within a 20-year period. This reduction may reflect gains in infant mortality rates (Figure 14), improved sanitation and better management of health conditions and diseases.

While life expectancy at birth data for Albertans were available, similar information for First Nations in Alberta was not, as the data from vital statistics do not include a First Nations identifier and cannot be adequately linked to the information on the Indian Registry.

11Closing the gap in a generation: Health inequity through action on the social determinants of health, Commission on Social Determinants of Health,
World Health Organization, 2008

12Prime Minister’s Annual Statement to Parliament on Closing the Gap, Closing the Gap on Indigenous Disadvantage: The Challenge for Australia, Australia, 2009