It is well known that individuals receiving social assistance have more health problems than those with higher incomes. In this paper, we estimate the proportion of social assistance recipients who were on welfare following a drop in health status.
The study population consisted of Saskatchewan adults who had been continuously off social assistance for 12 consecutive months followed by 6 months on social assistance. Health status was measured by the use of physician services. We examined changes in physician service rates during the 18-month period.
Forty-nine percent of individuals in the study population had increases in the number of physician services over the 18-month period. For these individuals, 53% of the increase in service use occurred during the 12 months prior to receiving social assistance.
Deteriorating health, as measured by increased physician service use, seems to be one factor that precedes many people's receipt of welfare. A focus on improving health status may be one way to keep people off welfare.