Statistics Canada
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Children and youth

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Canada is a comparatively young country with proportionally fewer seniors and more young people in its population than many other developed countries.

In 2005, 24% of Canada’s population was under age 20. That compares with 19% in Japan, 21% in 15 European countries and 28% in the United States. By contrast, 40% of the Mexican population was under age 20.

Still, our population is aging as the share of younger people has fallen over the past three decades. This trend is expected to continue over the next 50 years. In 2006, 31% of the population was under 25 compared with 48% in 1971.

A sign of the demographic shift is that, for the first time ever, the 2006 Census counted more census families comprised of couples without children aged 24 and younger present in the home (43%) than with children (41%).

On July 1, 2008, Canada had 10.2 million people aged 24 and younger. Of those, 5.6 million were under 15, 2.3 million were aged 15 to 19 and 2.3 million were aged 20 to 24.

Many women have delayed childbearing, so a growing proportion of young children (aged 4 and younger) has a mother in her forties. In 2001, 7.8% of young children had a mother who was in her forties; this rose to 9.4% by 2006.

Health status 

Fewer infants are dying from illnesses and fewer children are growing up in low income families. Most are reaching their teens in good or excellent health.

Asthma, one of the most common chronic conditions among children, is on the rise. By 2000/2001, 13% of kids aged 11 and younger were diagnosed with asthma, up from 11% in 1994. The proportion with high-severity symptoms dropped from 41% to 36%. Childhood rates are highest in the Atlantic provinces and in homes with smokers.

The prevalence of obesity and being overweight doubled to 26% of children aged 14 and younger in 2006, up from 13% in 1977/1978. Children living in the lowest income neighbourhoods have the greatest likelihood of being overweight or obese. Children in rural areas weigh more than those in urban areas; however, unlike the impact of low income, this rural–urban disparity does not increase with age.

Participation in sports down

In 2005, 51% of kids aged 5 to 14 took part in organized sports in the previous 12 months, down from 57% in 1992. Soccer was the most popular sport for both boys and girls in 2005, replacing swimming, which was the most popular in 1992. Sports participation increases with household income and the education levels of parents.

Children’s participation in organized extracurricular activities is associated with positive social behaviours over both the short and long term. It is also linked to fewer school dropouts and lower rates of emotional and behavioural disorders.

In 2006, 200,000 families were caring for a child with disabilities. The parents of three out of five children who had some form of activity limitation said their job was affected by their child’s condition. More than one-third of parents were working fewer hours, while another third had adjusted their work hours to cope.