Income and health in Canada: Canadian researchers' conceptualizations make policy change unlikely

Int J Health Serv. 2009;39(3):525-43. doi: 10.2190/HS.39.3.f.


The research reported here identified and evaluated gaps in Canadian knowledge and research activity concerning the role of income and its distribution in influencing health outcomes. The study consisted of an analysis of 241 recent Canadian research studies, the components of which were compared with 40 U.K. and 40 Finnish studies that applied advanced conceptualizations of the income-health relationship. Canadian health researchers rarely made explicit their conceptualizations of how income was approached in their studies, and most did not identify the structural mechanisms that mediate the income-health relationship. There were few Canadian longitudinal studies capable of illuminating the role of income in health across the lifespan. Many Canadian studies identified pathways by which income might influence health, but these conceptualizations were underdeveloped. Canadian researchers need to strengthen their conceptualizations of how income and its distribution affect health. While empirical research is only one contributor to positive policy change, the narrow nature of Canadian work will do little to influence this process. Interdisciplinary work on the political, economic, and social forces that contribute to income inequalities has the potential, when combined with political and social action, to facilitate public policy in support of health.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sociology, Medical / statistics & numerical data*