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High association between welfare, poor health: Study

Canadians on welfare have significantly higher odds of reporting poor physical and mental health, finds a University of Toronto study.

Statistical analysis of data from the 1996-97 National Population Health Survey revealed that welfare recipients were more likely to report poor or fair health, depression and distress than people not on welfare as well as fewer social supports. The study, published in the March/April issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health, also found that welfare recipients whose activity was not restricted by long-term disability had greater odds of reporting heart disease than non-welfare recipients.

"These findings indicate that adults on welfare struggle with a broad spectrum of health problems," says the study's senior author, nutritional sciences professor Valerie Tarasuk. "I believe the increasing inadequacy of welfare benefits in many provinces may put them at even greater health risk. The impact of welfare program reforms on the health and well-being of recipients must be assessed and monitored."

The finding that welfare recipients were more likely to report heart disease is of concern because this condition can be prevented or managed, at least in part, by lifestyle modifications, says the study's lead author, U of T medical student Nicholas Vozoris. "Affording special diets, exercise, medications and medical supplies not covered by government programs may be problematic for welfare recipients since many of these healthy lifestyle choices are associated with increased costs," he says.


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Contact: Jessica Whiteside
jessica.whiteside@utoronto.ca
416-978-5948
University of Toronto
16-Mar-2004


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