There have been important strides made on the part of many Aboriginal communities to improve education around health issues today, but despite these improvements, Indigenous peoples remain at higher risk for illness and earlier death than Non-Native people.
Chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are on the increase. There is a definite correlation between income, social factors, diets, nutrition and health. There is a higher rate of respiratory problems and other infectious diseases among First Nation children than among Non-Native children, inadequate housing, and crowded living conditions as well as a lack of daily nutrition are just some of contributing factors.
The overall health of Aboriginal people has improved in recent years; however, it continues to lag behind the overall population. In 2009, the life expectancy for Canadian women was 83 years of age compared to 79 years for men. Between 1980 and 2001, life expectancy at birth for registered Indigenous men increased from 60.9 to 70.4 years and for registered First nation women from 68 to 75.5 years.
Health Canada reported in 2001–2002 that the leading causes of death among registered Indigenous peoples were external causes (accidental poisoning, vehicle accidents, and intentional self-harm), diseases of the circulatory system (hypertension, cardiovascular disease), and neoplasms (various types of cancer).
Suicide rates for Aboriginal peoples in Canada have for some time been much higher than those of the general population. A 2000 study found that suicide and self-inflicted injuries were the leading causes of death for Indigenous people below 45 years of age. Suicide rates among First Nation youth are around five to six times the national average, while Inuit youth rates are approximately ten times the national average. The causes for such high rates of suicide are multiple and may include depression due to social, cultural, or generational dislocation; drug and substance abuse; lack of housing, fresh foods and nutrition, and access to opportunity.