Students at an off-reserve school in Quebec are shown in 2016. A new study finds it likely their parents were worried about being able to afford nutritious food. (Catherine Paradis/Radio-Canada)

Fears of lack of affordable food affecting many First Nations people

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Studies and statistics have consistently shown that suicide rates among Canada’s Indigenous peoples are two to three times higher than among non-Indigenous Canadians.

The reasons are complex, of course, but a new study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal concludes the quality and availability of foods plays a major role in the mental health of Indigenous people living off-reserve in the country, a finding that appears to confirm a study carried out in Atlantic Canada in 2017.

Looking at which financial factors affect psychological distress, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among Indigenous peoples living off-reserve, the researchers analysed a 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey originally filed with Statistics Canada in 2012 to which 14,000 Indigenous adults responded,.

A new analysis shows fears of lacking proper food are deeply and adversely affecting First Nations people, who live off reserve. (Health Canada)

According to Mohammad Hajizadeh, one of the study’s authors, the researchers found that uncertainty over having a regular, affordable source of nutritious food seemed to be a major factor explaining the higher rates of mental health problems among low-income Indigenous peoples, with 28 per cent of off-reserve Indigenous households reporting some form of it in the 2012 survey.

Hajizadeh, an assistant professor in the School of Health Administration at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says he hopes the findings will help shape future government policy.

“Let’s say if you hypothetically cannot have a policy that affects income, but at least you have a policy that tries to affect the food insecurity itself,” he told CBC News.

“Based on our results, addressing insecurity among low-income Indigenous peoples living off-reserve may potentially reduce a substantial proportion of the observed income-related inequalities in mental health outcomes,” the study says.

The survey did not collect information from First Nations people in institutions such as prisons and hospitals, shelters and groups.

About 600,000 Indigenous adults live off-reserve in Canada.

With files from CBC, Government of Canada

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Categories: Economy, Indigenous, Politics, Society
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One comment on “Fears of lack of affordable food affecting many First Nations people
  1. Avatar s.macaroni says:

    This paints a picture that indigenous people are either more prone to mental health issues due to lack of adequate nutrition or this is affecting all low-income house holds.
    We love to pick “marginalized” people and use them for a study to get a grant to pay a scientist to do a study, indigenous people have all the advantages of non indigenous peoples off reserve. If you are saying you can not afford the same food your local people in your community eats because you are indigenous we all know that is not true. I grew up with no money and very little food due to the choices my parents made for our household, we are white and at those times I had suicidal thoughts. lets help people, not some people.