In Canada between 2001 and 2006 the number of persons who reported having a disability increased by three-quarters of a million people (+21.2%), reaching 4.4 million in 2006.
At the same time, the non-disabled population experienced lesser growth, increasing by 3.3% to reach 26.2 million people.
As a result, the national disability rate increased 1.9 percentage points from its level of 12.4% in 2001 to reach 14.3% in 2006.
Demographic shifts in the structure of the Canadian population have an effect on the disability rate. Because of the higher disability rates for older Canadians, an aging population will produce a higher overall disability rate without any change in reporting patterns.
In 2006, 4.4 million Canadians living in households reported having an activity limitation yielding a disability rate of 14.3%. This is an increase from the 2001 disability rate of 12.4%, when 3.6 million Canadians reported limitations in their everyday activities due to a physical or psychological condition or to a health condition.
The increase is due to a number of factors, including aging of the population and changing reporting behaviors.
Activity limitations are more prevalent among older Canadians. The survey results confirm that the disability rate in Canada increases steadily with age.
Among children aged 0 to 14, 3.7% reported a disability, with this rate rising to nearly 11.5% among adults aged 15 to 64, and to 43.4% among persons aged 65 and over. In fact, more than half (56.3%) of persons aged 75 and over reported having an activity limitation.
The rates of disabilities rose gradually as well within the working age population:
Overall, the disability rate increases with age for both men and women.
Nevertheless, women were, in general, more likely (15.2%) to report an activity limitation than men (13.4%).
However, this relationship is reversed among children aged 0 to 14. Boys in this age group were more likely to have activity limitations, with a rate of 4.6% compared to 2.7% for girls.
Young men and women aged 15 to 24 have a similar disability rate.
Differences in the rates begin again at age 25, when the prevalence of disability is slightly higher for women than for men.
This trend continues into the senior years with a disability rate of approximately 54.0% for men and 57.8% for women over the age of 75.
Almost 3.8 million Canadians, or 13.7 per cent of the population, identified themselves as having a disability in 2012. This was up from 12.4 per cent, or 3.6 million people, in 2001.
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