A Statistics Canada study has found that more First Nations people over the age of 15 living off reservations are reporting poor health and more chronic health conditions in comparison to the total population of Canada.

The study looked at the effects of chronic health conditions, inadequate housing, lack of education and employment and household food insecurity among First Nations people living off-reserve. It determined that experiencing just one of these social determinants had a significantly negative impact on how those in the study rated both their general and mental health.

The information comes from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey that collected data from First Nations people living off reserve, Metis and Inuit people on their social and economic conditions, specifically issues of education, employment and health.

The study found that only 49 per cent of First Nations people in the study reported excellent or very good general health in comparison to 62 per cent of the total Canadian population. Regarding mental health, 60 per cent of First Nations people rated themselves as having excellent or very good mental health, still below the 72 per cent of Canadians who answered the same way.

Sixty-three per cent of off-reserve First Nations people also reported being diagnosed with at least one chronic health condition – a long-term condition diagnosed by a health professional that can last, or has lasted six months – as opposed to 49 per cent of the total Canadian population.

First Nations people living off-reserve still face many similar issues that First Nations people living on reservations face, according to Cyndy Baskin, an associate professor in the school of social work at Ryerson University and the chair of the school’s Aboriginal Education Council. This includes dealing with historical trauma, a lack of education due to the absence of funds and a lack of representation in education, said Baskin.

“(We are) not in the curriculum and if we are, it is usually inaccurate or depicts us with teepees,” said Baskin, who is of Mi’kmaq and Celtic Nations. She also said that racial stereotyping and police profiling are other common problems that First Nations people face.

The divide between First Nations men and women can also be seen in this study, as First Nations men reported both better general health and mental health than women. According to Baskin, women face a lot more health concerns because they are much more susceptible to violence and stress.

“A lot of our women are single mothers struggling with poverty and needing access to social assistance, services and food banks,” said Baskin, “I have had mothers tell me that there are days when they don’t eat because there is only enough food for their children.”

Women were also more likely to report three or more chronic conditions and significantly less likely to report only one chronic condition like their male counterparts. The most commonly reported conditions include high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma and Type 2 diabetes.

According to Baskin, many First Nations people are afraid to see doctors or go to the hospital because of intergenerational trauma. The experience of children who were sick in residential schools and went to the infirmary and died, has instilled a fear that persists among many First Nations people.

The study used a sample of 8,801 First Nations people over the age of 15 who were living off-reserve. According to Statistics Canada, this sample size represents an estimated population of 40,475 First Nations people living off-reserve throughout Canada.