A new Statistics Canada report finds that food insecurity, lack of access to health care, and inadequate housing are among some of the key social determinants that result in higher mental distress among Inuit.
The study, titled The Social Determinants of Higher Mental Distress among Inuit, is based on the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey. It sampled over 2,500 people who identified as Inuit aged 18 years and over, living in Inuit Nunangat — or "Inuit homeland" — which is comprised of Nunavut, as well as northern regions of the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Labrador.
- Housing conditions related to Inuit children's health: report
- IN DEPTH I On World Suicide Prevention Day, nobody in Nunavut is untouched, even politicians
- Inuit groups want input into national suicide prevention strategy
Mental distress can be related to higher anxiety or depressive symptoms and can result in a lack of social ties, low-income and chronic physical conditions.
"Those with low, or very low food security were more likely to be in higher mental health distress," said Thomas Anderson, the report's author, adding that food insecurity was found to be an even larger factor for men.
Another factor that led to higher mental health distress is access to healthcare.
"If the respondent had encountered a time in the previous year when health care was needed but wasn't received, they were much more likely to be in higher mental distress," said Anderson.
For women, housing was a key social determinant to health.
"Living in either a dwelling that was in need of major repairs, or living in a crowded dwelling — both of those variables seemed to be associated with higher distress for women," Anderson explained.
Education was another factor that influenced mental distress, particularly for men. Inuit men with less than a high school certificate showed higher levels of mental distress, Anderson said. However, one counterintuitive finding showed that men who had achieved post-secondary education were also at greater risk of mental distress.
Anderson said "higher expectations" for a better job and greater success that is unmet in rural settings could be a few of the reasons why highly-educated men are suffering higher levels of mental distress.
"The report helps to paint a picture that mental distress doesn't come from a single factor," he said.