Chronic physical health conditions and disability among Canadian school-aged children: a national profile

Disabil Rehabil. 2004 Jan 7;26(1):35-45. doi: 10.1080/09638280410001645076.


Objective: The objective of this study was to provide a national health and disability profile of Canadian school-aged children based on the World Health Organization's definitions of health condition and disability that would facilitate international comparisons of child health data.

Methods: Data were used from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, a 1994 - 95 population-based sample of 22 831 children.

Findings: An estimated total of 30.3% of Canadian children aged 6 to 11 had one or more chronic physical health conditions/impairments, while 3.6% had activity-limiting conditions/impairments. Children living with one parent were significantly more likely to have activity-limiting conditions/impairments than those living with two parents. Children with conditions/impairments, particularly those with activity limitations, were significantly more likely than children without health problems to have experienced mental health conditions and learning disabilities, missed school days, received special education, visited health professionals, been hospitalized, and used prescription medication.

Conclusion: Important differences were found among children in a number of areas as a function of overall physical health status. The findings emphasize the importance of measuring activity limitations distinctly from chronic conditions and impairments, and, perhaps, of measuring impairments distinctly from chronic conditions, and of comparing children with such health problems to children without health problems in order to obtain a more accurate picture of the impact of health on children's lives. The World Health Organization's distinct definitions of health condition and disability facilitate a dimensional approach for describing child health that can serve to clarify this field of study and improve comparability of data across countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Disabled Children / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Education, Special / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Single-Parent Family
  • Speech Disorders / epidemiology