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

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Prentice Institute Research Assistant Herb Emery and Post-doctoral Fellow Daniel Dutton.

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

Lynn McIntyre, Cynthia Kwok, J.C. Herbert Emery, Daniel J. Dutton
Can J Public Health Vol 107, No 2 (2016) > McIntyre


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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