A new study shows Inuit life expectancy still trails that of the rest of the country, with self-inflicted injuries and smoking largely to blame.
The Statistics Canada work compared life expectancy and cause of death data for the Inuit Nunangat area and the rest of the country from 1989 to 2008.
It found that life expectancy among people who live in the Inuit regions rose over the period.
Male life expectancy rose to 67.7 years from 63.5; among women, life expectancy rose to 72.8 years from 71.1. But in the rest of Canada, male life expectancy rose to 77.5 from 74.1 and among females it rose to 81.3 from 79.7.
Among Inuit men, the main reason for the lower life expectancy was injury, particularly self-inflicted injury among males aged 15 to 24.
Among Inuit women, the gap in life expectancy was attributed to cancers and respiratory diseases, particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In fact, when causes of death related to smoking were grouped together, they accounted for about one-third of the difference between life expectancy among Inuit women and women in the rest of the country.
The study authors acknowledge there are some limitations to the work.
Vital statistic records did not routinely identify Inuit heritage during the period of study. So the authors used data from the whole of the Inuit Nunangat region – a technique which would have lumped in some non-Inuit people as well.
The study says Inuit people make up about 78 per cent of the population of the Inuit Nunangat, which is comprised of Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.