Canadian children have high rates of mental illness, poverty and mortality: National study

A new national study shines a light on the staggering state of mental, physical and emotional health of Canada's children. Andrey Nekrasov /Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A new report issued Tuesday highlights alarming statistics regarding the mental, physical and emotional health of Canadian children.

The report, titled Raising Canada, was released by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, and is based on data from a number of government agencies including Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

WATCH BELOW: Children in crisis — when youth struggle with mental illness

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Children in crisis: When youth struggle with mental illness

There are currently 1.2 million Canadian children living in low-income housing and 10.7 per cent of families with children under six say they experience food insecurity. Canada also has one of the highest infant mortality rates of OECD countries, and the leading cause of childhood deaths are preventable accidents and suicide.

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The shocking statistics don’t end there.

“We have this idea that Canada is a great place to raise kids, but we rank 25th out of 41 wealthy countries globally when it comes to the development of children,” Sara Austin, founder and lead director of Children First Canada, says to Global News.

“In a poll, most Canadians thought that we were a top-five country for kids. We’re far from being a leading country. We have close to eight million children in Canada and too many are in jeopardy.”

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Preventable accidents are the leading cause of death for kids, and Austin points to a lack of effective booster seat legislation as one of the culprits. But suicide is the second leading cause of death, which also indicates a lack of proper mental health support.

READ MORE: Child poverty up in Canada since 1989, new research finds

“An alarm bell needs to be rung,” she says. “There are a range of factors [that contribute to mental health issues]. Our report also highlights the number of kids who experience child abuse — one in three in Canada. That’s also closely linked to mental health outcomes.”
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The physical health of Canadian children also raises a number of red flags. The report found that 27.9 per cent of kids aged 12 to 17 reported being overweight or obese, and only 35 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds meet the daily recommended guidelines for physical activity.

Perhaps even more alarming is that a quarter of all children have not received their full recommended doses of diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus vaccine by the age of two.

WATCH: Child welfare report shines harsh spotlight on Canada

Click to play video: 'Child welfare report shines harsh spotlight on Canada'
Child welfare report shines harsh spotlight on Canada

“We don’t know why these children aren’t getting their vaccines and we need to do further research. But the evidence shows that immunizations are the most cost-effective strategies for improving health outcome,” Austin says. “This requires urgent action.”

Along with Canada’s leading heads of children’s charities and hospitals, research institutes and corporations that invest in children’s issues, Children First Canada is leading a call to action for the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

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“We need an independent office in government to enforce the rights and well being of kids,” Austin says. “We’re also asking the federal government to follow up with commitments they’ve made on [ending child poverty]. And we need a children’s budget that will provide transparency on the resources spent on childcare so we can determine if it’s going towards evidence-based solutions.”

The full Raising Canada report can be viewed on the Children First Canada website.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, but we believe it takes a nation to raise a nation.”

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