For the first time since Statistics Canada began collecting the data in 1926, women have caught up to men in the number of deaths each year.
In 2011, female deaths compared with male deaths were separated by just 10, with 121,032 women who died and 121,042 men.
According to Statscan, the gap between male and female deaths has been narrowing for the past thirty years – a trend attributed to the fact that mortality is declining more rapidly in men than in women.
Laurent Martel, the head of analysis and projections in the the demography division at Statscan, said the gap is narrowing for a number of factors, some of them related to the fact that women are increasingly engaging in behaviours more traditionally associated with men. For example, as more women entered the labour market, he said, "there's all the side effects with labour force participation – stress, smoking, drinking," – that can lead to a higher number of deaths.
Another reason the gap has narrowed, Mr. Martel said, is that fewer young men appear to be engaging in dangerous activities, leading to a sharp drop in men dying in their 20s from violence or road accidents.
At the height of the gap in the 1960s and 1970s, over 20,000 more men were dying each year than women. That gap began to narrow by the mid-1980s.
Overall, Mr. Martel added, the number of deaths amongst Canadians – for both men and women – has continued to rise over the years, due to a growing population and aging.
The Statscan report also shows that men still tend to die younger than women. Seventy-four per cent of men die over the age of 65, with the highest number of male deaths in 2011 registered at 85 years old. Meanwhile, 84 per cent of women die over the age of 65, with the highest number of female deaths for the year registered at age 89.