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Impact of a guaranteed annual income program on Canadian seniors' physical, mental and functional health

TitleImpact of a guaranteed annual income program on Canadian seniors' physical, mental and functional health
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsMcIntyre, L. L., Kwok C., Emery J.. C. Herbert, and Dutton D. J.
JournalCanadian Journal of Public Health
Pagese176 - e182
Keywordscanada, guaranteed annual income, health, hui, mental health, poverty, seniors

OBJECTIVE: Although there is widespread recognition that poverty is a key determinant of health, there has been less research on the impact of poverty reduction on health. Recent calls for a guaranteed annual income (GAI), defined as regular income provided to citizens by the state regardless of work status, raise questions about the impact, relative to the costs, of such a population health intervention. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of Canadian seniors' benefits (Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement, analogous to a GAI program) on the self-reported health, self-reported mental health and functional health of age-eligible, low-income seniors. METHODS: We used the 2009-2010 Canadian Community Health Survey to examine unattached adult respondents with an annual income of $20,000 or less, stratified by seniors' benefits/GAI eligibility (55-64 years: ineligible; 65-74 years: eligible). Using regression, we assessed self-reported health, selfreported mental health and functional health as measured by the Health Utilities Index, as outcomes for seniors' benefits/GAI-eligible and -ineligible groups. RESULTS: We found that individuals age-eligible for seniors' benefits/GAI had better health outcomes than recipients of conditional income assistance programs. Eligibility for seniors' benefits/GAI after age 64 was associated with better self-reported health, functional health and self-reported mental health outcomes, and these effects were observed until age 74. CONCLUSION: Using seniors' benefits as an example, a GAI leads to significantly better mental health and improved health overall. These improvements are likely to yield reduced health care costs, which may offset the costs associated with program expansion.

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