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Social benefit payments and acute injury among low-income mothers


Background — Human error due to risky behaviour is a common and important contributor to acute injury related to poverty. The authors studied whether social benefit payments mitigate or exacerbate risky behaviours that lead to emergency visits for acute injury among low-income mothers with dependent children.

Methods — The authors analyzed total emergency department visits throughout Ontario to identify women between 15 and 55 years of age who were mothers of children younger than 18 years, who were living in the lowest socio-economic quintile and who presented with acute injury. The authors used universal healthcare databases to evaluate emergency department visits during specific days on which social benefit payments were made (child benefit distribution) relative to visits on control days over a 7-year interval (1 April 2003 to 31 March 2010).

Results — A total of 153 377 emergency department visits met the inclusion criteria. The authors observed fewer emergencies per day on child benefit payment days than on control days (56.4 v. 60.1, p = 0.008). The difference was primarily explained by lower values among mothers age 35 years or younger (relative reduction 7.29%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.69% to 12.88%), those living in urban areas (relative reduction 7.07%, 95% CI 3.05% to 11.10%) and those treated at community hospitals (relative reduction 6.83%, 95% CI 2.46% to 11.19%). No significant differences were observed for the 7 days immediately before or the 7 days immediately after the child benefit payment.

Interpretation — Contrary to political commentary, the authors found that small reductions in relative poverty mitigated, rather than exacerbated, risky behaviours that contribute to acute injury among low-income mothers with dependent children.



Redelmeier DA, Chan WK, Mullainathan S, Shafir E. Open Med. 2012; 6(3):e101-8. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

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