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A Number of deaths

In 2009, 238,418 deaths were registered in Canada. Of these, 120,311 were men and 118,107 were women, down 0.1% from 2008 for both sexes (Table 1). The decrease was observed in the majority of provinces and territories.

From 2008 to 2009, only Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Yukon and Nunavut showed an increase in the number of deaths.

A.1 Trends in deaths

Over the 25-year period from 1984 to 2009, the number of deaths rose 36% from 175,727 to 238,418 (Chart 1). Population aging and demographic growth are the main contributors to the overall upward trend in the number of deaths. While the Canadian population increased by 32% between 1984 and 2009, the number of people aged 65 and over increased by 83%. Population aging and the arrival of the baby-boom generation in their senior years (people born between 1946 and 1965) suggest that the number of deaths could rise in the future.

In this 25-year period, the number of female deaths grew more rapidly than the number of male deaths (52% versus 23% respectively). This situation is related to the fact that the female population is larger than the male population, especially in the senior years where mortality is higher because female life expectancy is higher than that of males. In 2009, there were 26% more women aged 65 and older than men.

B Natural increase

Natural increase in the population is the difference between the number of births and deaths. Chart 2 shows the annual number of births, deaths and natural increase from 1984 to 2009.

Twenty five years ago natural increase was about 201,300 compared with approximately 142,400 in 2009.

During that period, the annual number of deaths increased steadily, while the annual number of births fluctuated. The number of births swung around 375,000 between 1984 and 1986 and then rose to its highest level, almost 405,000 births, in 1990. After 1990, the number of births gradually sank to its lowest level, around 328,000, in 2000. In the early 2000s, the number of births turned upward again, reaching nearly 380,900 in 2009.

As shown in Chart 2, the evolution of natural increase during that 25-year period was mainly influenced by the number of births. Before 1993, natural increase was generally greater than the number of deaths. When the number of births started to fall, natural increase also declined. In 2002, natural increase dropped to its lowest level, approximately 105,000, in the 25-year period. However, from 2003 to 2009, as the number of births rose again, there was a moderate yet steady rise in natural increase.

C Mortality rates

Crude mortality rate is the number of deaths during a given year per 1,000 population in the middle of the same year. The age-standardized mortality rate (SMR) removes the effects of differences in the age structure of populations among areas and over time. This rate is calculated using the 1991 population of Canada as standard population.

C.1 Crude and standardized mortality rates

From 2008 to 2009, both the SMR and the crude mortality rate edged down: the SMR decreased slightly from 5.3 per 1,000 standard population to 5.2 and the crude mortality rate from 7.2 deaths per 1,000 population to 7.1 (Table 2).

The SMR decreased in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island and Nunavut where it increased. The SMR ranged from 4.8 per 1,000 standard population in British Columbia to 11.7 in Nunavut.

Chart 3 shows the SMR rates between 1999 and 2009. Nationally, the SMR fell from 6.4 deaths per 1,000 standard population in 1999 to 5.2 in 2009. It also declined in all provinces and territories in this 10-year period. Quebec had the largest difference where the rate showed an improvement of 1.5. In contrast, the smallest change (0.3) was observed in the territories where the SMR was the highest.

C.2 Age-specific mortality rates

Two factors may affect the number of deaths: a change in the population at risk of dying and a change in mortality rates.

By applying 2008 age-specific mortality rates to the 2009 population, we can determine the extent to which the change in the number of deaths in 2009 was due to changes in population size versus changes in mortality rates (Table 3).

If age-specific mortality rates had remained the same from 2008 to 2009, the number of deaths in 2009 would have been 246,052. However, the actual number of deaths registered in 2009 was lower at 238,418. The fact that there were 7,634 fewer deaths than expected in 2009 could be attributed to a decrease in mortality rates, especially at the more advanced ages.

In 2009, mortality rates declined in most age groups. Mortality rates were lowest among people aged 1 to 14 and highest among people in advanced age groups. Those 70 and older also saw the greatest decreases in mortality rates between 2008 and 2009.

D Infant deaths and mortality

An infant death is the death of a child under one year of age. The number of infant deaths decreased 2.0%, from 1,911 in 2008 to 1,872 in 2009. The number of male infant deaths decreased 6.1%, while the number of female infant deaths was up 2.9%.

D.1 Infant mortality rates

From 2008 to 2009, the infant mortality rate decreased from 5.1 to 4.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The male infant mortality rate decreased from 5.5 to 5.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, while the female infant mortality rate edged up from 4.6 to 4.7 (Table 4).

From 2008 to 2009, five provinces (Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia) and one territory (Nunavut) showed a decrease in their infant mortality rates.

The female infant mortality rate declined in three provinces (Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Alberta). In contrast, the largest increase was in Northwest Territories.

The male infant mortality rate decreased in four provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia) and two territories (Northwest Territories and Nunavut). The largest decreases were observed in Northwest Territories, while the largest increase was in the Yukon.

The figures in the small regions with small population size are subject to large fluctuations and should be interpreted with caution.

D.2 Neonatal, post-neonatal and perinatal mortality

Infant mortality can be subdivided into neonatal mortality (deaths of infants aged 0 to 27 days) and post-neonatal mortality (deaths of infants aged 28 to 364 days). Perinatal mortality refers to stillbirths at 28 weeks' gestation or more and early neonatal deaths (deaths of infants aged 0 to 6 days).

From 2008 to 2009, Canada's neonatal mortality rate remains unchanged at 3.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. However, the post-neonatal mortality rate decreased from 1.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 1.2 in 2009, the lowest level since 1994 (Table 5).

The perinatal mortality rate decreased from 6.2 in 2008 to 6.1 deaths per 1,000 total births in 2009. Total births are live births plus stillbirths at 28 weeks' gestation or more.

In general from 1994 to 2009, infant, neonatal, post-neonatal and perinatal mortality rates all declined (Table 5).

D.3 Trends in perinatal mortality

From 1994 to 2009, the two components of perinatal mortality – early neonatal mortality and late fetal mortality – showed different trends. The number of late fetal deaths showed a downward trend between 1994 and 2004, followed by a change in trends between 2005 and 2007, and has declined slowly since 2008. The number of early neonatal deaths decreased between 1994 and 2000 and turned upward between 2001 and 2005, and has been fluctuating since then (Chart 4).

E Life expectancy

Life expectancy is the average number of years of life remaining for a population at a specific age, assuming that the individuals comprising that population would experience the age-specific mortality rates observed in a given year, throughout their lives. It represents a key indicator of a population's health status and it is based on age-specific mortality rates calculated using three-year data.

E.1 Life expectancy at birth and at age 65

In 2007/2009, life expectancy at birth was 81.1 years – 78.8 years for men and 83.3 years for women. That is an increase of 0.2 years from 2006/2008, with gains of 0.3 years for men and 0.2 years for women (Table 6).

Over the 10-year period, from 1997/1999 to 2007/2009, life expectancy at birth increased by 2.3 years, from 78.8 years to 81.1 years (Table 6). During that period, male life expectancy increased by 2.8 years, while female life expectancy improved slower rising by 1.8 years. As a result, the gender gap narrowed by 1 year, from 5.5 years in 1997/1999 to 4.5 years in 2007/2009.

Life expectancy at age 65 was 20.2 years in 2007/2009 – 18.5 years for men and 21.6 years for women. The increase in life expectancy at age 65 from 2006/2008 to 2007/2009 was 0.2 years for men and 0.1 year for women.

From 1997/1999 to 2007/2009, life expectancy at age 65 improved by 1.9 years. The increase in life expectancy at age 65 was larger for men than for women (2.2 years versus 1.5). Consequently, the males-females gap in life expectancy at age 65 narrowed by 0.7 years, from 3.8 years to 3.1, respectively.

E.2 Geographic differences in life expectancy

In 2007/2009, life expectancy at birth was above the national average in three provinces: British Columbia (81.7), Ontario (81.5) and Quebec (81.2) (Table 7). Since 2005/2007 Quebec has outranked Alberta, having shown the fastest increase in life expectancy (3.6 years) since 1992/1994.

The lowest life expectancy at birth was in the three territories combined (75.1) with a gap of 6 years compared to the national average.

In 2007/2009 in British Columbia, men's life expectancy at birth (79.5) was 0.7 years higher than the national average, while for women ( 83.9) it was 0.6 years more.

Life expectancy at age 65 was also highest in British Columbia, at 20.7 years, followed by Ontario, at 20.3, which were both above the national average (20.2 years). Alberta had the same life expectancy at age 65 as the Canadian average.

The lowest life expectancy at age 65 was in the territories (16.9 years).

E.3 Comparison with selected OECD countries

A recent study showed that for the past 50 years, life expectancy at birth in Canada has ranked in the top 10 among the 34 countries now in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 1 

As most of the OECD countries, life expectancy at birth for Canadians continues to increase. Compared with 15 selected OECD countries in 2009, Canada ranked 6th for males and 7th for females (Table 8).

Switzerland had the highest male life expectancy at birth (79.9 years), followed by Iceland, Japan, Sweden and Australia.

In contrast Japanese women had the longest life expectancy with 86.4 years.

However, the gap between Canada and the country that ranked first was larger for women (3.1 years) than for men (1.1 years).

In North America, Canadian men could expect to outlive American men by 3.1 years, while Canadian women could expect to outlive American women by 2.7 years.

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