Less Than One-Fifth of Adult Canadians Smoke-The Lowest Rate Among OECD Countries

Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) Releases data from OECD Comparing Canadian Smoking and Other Health Related Statistics to Other Countries

June 9, 2005 – New data released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the rate of daily smokers in Canada has declined from 33% in 1981 to 17% in 2003-the lowest rate among all OECD countries along with Sweden and the United States (both at 17.5%).

In terms of tobacco consumption, Canada ranked 14th lowest among 19 countries that reported on tobacco consumption (grams per capita) for 2003; however smokers in Canada tend to smoke, on average, slightly more cigarettes per day than smokers in other OECD countries. Alcohol consumption is lower in Canada than in most OECD countries (24th lowest among 30 countries that reported alcohol consumption for 2003), but the prevalence of obesity in Canada is roughly equal to the OECD average-Canada ranked 11th among 29 countries that reported the percentage of the population that was obese in 2003.

The annual OECD data release compares health data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada with information for other member countries of the OECD. Both organizations are responsible for providing Canadian data to the OECD, in accordance with reporting standards and guidelines provided by the OECD. The OECD report is a comprehensive source of inter-country statistics in key areas of health and health care systems.

“One benefit of building a stronger national health information system is improving our capacity to compare the health of Canadians and our health system to that of other countries,� says Glenda Yeates, President and CEO of CIHI. �The OECD data highlights how critical it is to have objective and comparable data at the national level so we can measure our performance against that of other countries facing similar challenges.”

Other highlights from the OECD data include:

  • Life expectancy: Life expectancy at birth in Canada, at 79.7 years in 2002, was 1.9 years above the OECD average. Canada ranked eighth among the 30 OECD countries for life expectancy at birth. Japan had the highest life expectancy, at 81.8 years, followed by Iceland, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden and Italy.
  • Health spending: The health expenditure share of gross domestic product (GDP) has increased in all reporting OECD countries since 1998, except for Austria and Poland. In 2003, the ratio of health expenditure to GDP was 9.9% for Canada while it was 8.6% on average across all OECD countries.
  • Health spending per person: Health expenditure per capita in Canada reached USD$3,003 in 2003-about 30% higher than the OECD average.
  • Public spending: The public share of health care spending in Canada was 69.9% in 2003, slightly below the OECD average (72.1%). The public share was above 80% in some European countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Only the U.S., Mexico and Korea were below 50%.
  • Life expectancy and health spending per person: The data reinforce that there are factors other than the level of health care spending that have a great impact on mortality. For example, residents of the U.S. live on average 77.2 years and spend the most per capita on health care of all OECD countries. By contrast, the Japanese live on average 4.6 years longer than Americans, and per capita health care spending is 18th highest among OECD countries. Canadians spend the sixth highest amount per capita on health care and have an average life expectancy of 2.5 years longer than Americans, but live 2.1 years less than the Japanese on average.
  • Number of physicians: In Canada, there are fewer physicians per capita than in most other OECD countries. In 2003, Canada had 2.1 physicians per 1,000 population. The Canadian rate is similar to that in Japan, the UK and New Zealand, but below the OECD average of 2.9 per 1,000.
  • Number of nurses: In 2003, Canada�s rate of nurses per 1,000 population was 9.8�above the OECD average of 8.2 per 1,000-however the Canadian rate has declined in recent years. The variation of nurse-to-population ratios among OECD countries is greater than the variation of physician ratios.
  • Diagnostic equipment: In 2003, Canada averaged 10.3 CT (computerized tomography) scanners per million population, or less than the OECD average of 17.9. Japan had the highest ratio at 92.6 per million. Canada had 4.5 MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) units per million population, below the OECD average of 7.6 per million. Japan had the highest ratio, at 35.3 per million population.

OECD Health Data 2005 is available on CD-ROM, through the OECD. Extensive documentation of definitions, national sources and estimation methods per country are also included in the database.

To review this year�s OECD data, visit the OECD Web site, at www.oecd.org/health/healthdata.

Canadian Institute for Health Information

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, pan-Canadian, not-for-profit organization working to improve the health of Canadians and the health care system by providing quality health information. CIHI�s mandate, as established by Canada�s health ministers, is to coordinate the development and maintenance of a common approach to health information for Canada. To this end, CIHI is responsible for providing accurate and timely information that is needed to establish sound health policies, manage the Canadian health system effectively and create public awareness of factors affecting good health.

Data Tables

Table 1 Health Status and Risk Factors

Table 2 Health Expenditure and Resources