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1971—shortly after the introduction of universal Medicare in Canada—the disparity in
life expectancy between the richest and poorest quintiles was over six years for men, and
nearly three years for women.
By 1996 that disparity was down to five years for men, and considerably less than two years for women.
For females from 1986 onward, the richest three quintiles were not significantly different from each other. But for both males and females in all years, the poorest quintile was particularly disadvantaged, in that the difference in life expectancy between the poorest and next poorest quintiles was always greater than the difference between any other adjoining quintiles.
Nevertheless, all quintiles made substantial gains in life expectancy from 1971 to 1996, and the gains in life expectancy were larger in the poorest quintile than in the richest.