Community Health & Epidemiology Seminar Series - Dr. Mohammad Hajizadeh - "Inequalities in Psychological Distress and Suicidal Behaviour Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Population in Canada: What Explains the Differences?"

Abstract: Inequalities in the psychological distress and suicide rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous population continue to exist in Canada. Using data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health (n= 25,113) we investigated demographic, socioeconomic, sociocultural and geographic factors underlying the variation in the prevalence of moderate-to-serious psychological distress (10-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale [K10] scores > 24) and lifetime suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide plan between Indigenous populations living off-reserve and non-Indigenous population in Canada. An extension of the Blinder–Oaxaca (BO) technique to non-linear models was used to decompose the differences in the prevalence into two parts: the proportion attributable to the different levels of the covariates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations (the endowment effect or explained part) and a proportion attributable to those covariates having different effects on psychological distress and suicidal behaviours in Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations (the response effect or unexplained part). The prevalence of moderate-to-serious psychological distress, lifetime suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide plan among the non-Indigenous population in Canada were found to be 5.8, 9.5, 2.4%, respectively. The corresponding figures for Indigenous peoples were 10, 18.6 and 7.8%, respectively. We found that the variation in psychological distress is mostly explained by the differences in the sociodemographic, socioeconomic and sociocultural factors between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada. The results indicated that if covariates (e.g., income and employment status) were made to be identical in Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, the difference in the psychological distress between these populations would have been reduced by 77%.  The differences in the prevalence of lifetime suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide plan, however, were mainly explained by the response effect. Improving covariates among Indigenous peoples through plans like income equalisation or education subsidies may reduce the gap in psychological distress between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada. Since the response effect chiefly explains variations in suicidal behaviours, further research is required to understand these differences in Canada.
Biography: Dr. Mohammad Hajizadeh is an Assistant Professor at the School of Health Administration at Dalhousie University and cross-appointed with the School of Health and Human Performance and Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. He is also an Associate Research Scholar at the Healthy Populations Institute (HPI). Dr. Hajizadeh received his PhD in Economics from the University of Queensland and have held postdoctoral positions at McGill and Western universities. A health economist by training, his primary research interests are analyzing equity of health care, measuring inequality in health and evaluating health and social policies. 


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