In Brief: COVID-19 IMPACTS on Indigenous People with Long-standing Conditions or Disabilities

Vanier Institute’s In Brief Series: Mobilizing Research on Families in Canada

Diana Gerasimov

February 23, 2021

STUDY: Hahmann, T. “Changes to Health, Access to Health Services, and the Ability to Meet Financial Obligations among Indigenous People with Long-term Conditions or Disabilities since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45-28-0001 (February 1, 2021). Link: http://bit.ly/3prboVd.


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted health services and personal assistance programs, resulting in closures and/or a reduction of care for some families. Research shows a higher prevalence of pre-existing conditions and disabilities among Indigenous people in Canada, which can magnify the negative socioeconomic and health impacts they experience related to the pandemic. Survey findings have also demonstrated the impact the pandemic has had on the ability to meet basic needs, including food and shelter, among Indigenous people with disabilities or long-term conditions.

From June to July 2020, over 13,000 people over the age of 15 participated in a crowdsourced survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, who self-identified as having a long-term condition or disability. Out of those who completed the questionnaire, approximately 600 were First Nations people, Métis or Inuit.

  • More Indigenous than non-Indigenous survey participants with disabilities or long-term conditions reported worsened health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 57% of Indigenous participants with disabilities or chronic illness reported that their overall health had worsened since before the pandemic compared with 47% of non-Indigenous people.
  • 64% of Indigenous participants with disabilities or chronic illness reported that their mental health was “much worse” or “somewhat worse.”
  • The service disruptions that Indigenous participants with chronic conditions or disability were most likely to report were medical or dental (54%), chiropractic or physiotherapy (40%), medical testing (38%) and counselling (32%).
  • More Indigenous than non-Indigenous participants with disabilities or long-term conditions reported a “moderate” or “major” impact on their ability to meet essential needs since the pandemic started.
  • Over half of Indigenous participants reported a “moderate” or “major” impact on their ability to meet their food and grocery needs (54%) and their personal protective equipment (PPE) needs (52%), a critical factor in mitigating COVID-19 infection.

Diana Gerasimov holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Communication and Cultural Studies.

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