More than 80,000 Canadians are living with spinal cord injuries and that number is expected to climb.
A new report commissioned by the Rick Hansen Institute marks the first time Canadian health officials have had access to solid numbers on spinal cord injuries, which significantly shorten people's lives and cost billions in health-care costs.
The Urban Futures Institute report estimates 85,556 Canadians have spinal cord injuries. That number is expected to reach 121,000 by 2030.
About 48,243 people with spinal cord injuries are fully paralyzed, while 30,324 can use their arms.
People with spinal cord injuries will spend an average 140 days in hospital and die 15 to 30 years earlier than the average person. That's because they're susceptible to medical complications like urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers, pneumonia and severe depression.
Christopher Reeve, the actor known for portraying Superman who became paralyzed after falling from a horse, eventually succumbed to complications due to pressure ulcers.
In 42% of cases, the cause is a traumatic injury like Reeve's — mostly car crashes and falls. Other common causes include ALS and cancer.
The report estimates the economic cost of traumatic spinal cord injuries is $3.6 billion a year, including $1.8 billion in direct medical costs.
“It is essential to demonstrate to the Canadian public the full cost of SCI, to both individuals and communities, and to demonstrate the benefits of programs that will either reduce incidence or improve the lives of those with SCI so that the wider public will give their support, both in spirit and in funding, of these programs,” the report says.