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Health Reports, November 2023

Released: 2023-11-15

The November 2023 issue of Health Reports contains two articles.

More women died of COVID-19 than men early in the pandemic, but this was especially true among non-immigrants

While worldwide, more men than women died of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, Canada had proportionately more female COVID-19 deaths. The article "Sex differences in COVID-19 deaths in the early months of the pandemic in Canada: An examination with an immigration lens" shows that, based on a linked dataset of deaths to the longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB), this was mainly a phenomenon among non-immigrants aged 85 and older; and was likely related to the high concentration of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes, where a lower institutionalization rate by immigrants had been observed.

Cross-national data extracted from the COVID-19 Sex-Disaggregated Data Tracker show female over-representation in COVID-19 deaths in Canada was sustained from May 2020 until early 2021. However, in the summer of 2021, the sex difference in COVID-19 deaths in Canada disappeared, possibly due to COVID-19 vaccination efforts targeting long-term care home residents.

The article also found that, based on information available in the IMDB, the COVID-19 death rate among immigrant workers was higher in men compared with women in the Health Care and Social Assistance field, even though there are more women working in that sector.

The worldwide over-representation of males in COVID-19 deaths can be attributed to biological and situational factors, which include gender-related social norms, behaviours, and sex-based immunological factors. Further understanding of an over-representation of COVID-19 deaths among females in Canada at the onset of the pandemic may inform responses to similar outbreaks in the future.

Canadian men are more physically active than women, but there are other factors that influence differences in physical activity habits

While 45% of Canadian adults get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week, some people have risk factors that may keep them from meeting the recommended amount. The article "Intersecting risk factors for physical inactivity among Canadian adults" identifies clusters of risk factors that put certain groups within the Canadian adult population at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining adequate levels of physical activity.

Women are less active than men, regardless of age, income, education level, family arrangement, and health status. Older adults are less active than younger adults overall, but older adults with lower income, lower education, who live alone, and who smoke are less active than older adults without these risk factors. Younger Canadians are more active than older adults, but those with children in the household are less active than younger Canadians without children.

Young single mothers (32% of which met the physical activity recommendation) had several risk factors for physical inactivity, including having low income, smoking and having central adiposity. One-parent families with children have increased in Canada from 9% of families in 1976 to 16.4% of families in 2021, and mothers account for 77.2% of one-parent families.

These findings, based on six cycles of the Canadian Health Measures Survey collected from 2007 to 2019, highlight the most common combinations of risk factors for inactivity in the Canadian context—information that may help to target public health messaging and strategies toward those who need them most. This is important given the evidence supporting a strong relationship between physical activity and prevention of premature mortality and the incidence of many chronic health conditions.


The articles "Sex differences in COVID-19 deaths in the early months of the pandemic in Canada: An examination with an immigration lens" and "Intersecting risk factors for physical inactivity among Canadian adults" are now available in the November 2023 online issue of Health Reports, Vol. 34, No. 11 (Catalogue number82-003-X).

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