Housing conditions related to Inuit children's health: report

Poor housing conditions are related to poor physical and mental health in Inuit children, a new Statistics Canada study shows.

Housing satisfaction, home ownership related to health in Inuit children age 2 to 5

According to a new report by Statistics Canada, close to 30 per cent of Inuit children across Canada live in homes in need of major repair, compared to less than eight per cent of non-Aboriginal children. (Katherine Barton/CBC)

A family's lower satisfaction rate in living conditions and lack of home ownership are related to poor physical and mental health in Inuit children, according to a new Statistics Canada report.

The report compared the health of 1,233 Inuit children age two to five to physical housing characteristics like overcrowding, a parent's reported satisfaction with their housing and home ownership. 

​It was the first study of its kind to use a population-based sample of children under six years old to look at various aspects of housing and children's health outcomes.

The report shows more than a third of Inuit children age two to five live in crowded homes compared to less than seven per cent of non-Aboriginal children.

Additionally, close to 30 per cent of Inuit children live in homes in need of major repair, compared to less than eight per cent of non-Aboriginal children.

Home satisfaction

The report shows children who live in a home owned by their parents were more likely to have better physical health and were less likely to report problems with mental health.

Inuit children whose parents reported lower levels of housing satisfaction had more chronic and respiratory conditions, ear infections, inattention hyperactivity and emotional symptoms. 

Housing satisfaction was measured on a sliding scale from "very dissatisfied" to "very satisfied."

"We found a lot of the physical housing characteristics to be associated with parental satisfactions," said Dafna Kohen, one of the authors of the study.

"For example, families that reported living in housing that was less crowded, less likely to need major repair and those who owned their homes were more likely to report being satisfied with their housing.

"Housing satisfaction and home ownership were the most important factors when all factors were considered." 

The report, Housing and health among Inuit children, is based off a 2006 Statistics Canada Aboriginal Children's Survey. Half of the children studied were from Nunavut.

Not the only factors

The director of Global and Indigenous Health at the University of Toronto disputes some aspects of the report. Anna Banerji says there are many factors that effect a child's health.

"Overcrowding, I'm sure, is one of them, as is poverty as is poor nutrition, as is so many other things. It's not straightforward," she said.

"There are so many factors that are in play when you look at a child's health."

But Banerji points to one finding that can't be disputed: Inuit children disproportionately live in overcrowded homes and houses that are in need of repair.

She says the federal government should prioritize basic needs like housing, access to clean water and nutritious food to address health.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?