The Legal Problems of Everyday Life - The Nature, Extent and Consequences of Justiciable Problems Experienced by Canadians

Chapter VIII: The Health Care and Social Consequences of Justiciable Problems

Justiciable problems are so-named because they are the problems of everyday life, although they are problems that have legal aspects and potential legal solutions. Because life is more seamless than compartmentalized, justiciable problems occur in clusters, not only of types of justiciable problems, but also with types of problems that do not have clearly legal aspects. Other research suggests there are many connections between justiciable problems and social and health-related problems that are non-legal but, in the seamlessness of life, are integrally related to legal problems.[216]

In the present survey, respondents were asked if the justiciable problems they experienced had contributed to or caused adverse effects in several areas of life. These were: consequences for physical and mental health, on patterns of alcohol or drugs use, on the occurrence of violence in family and other areas of personal life and on feelings of personal safety and security. Overall, 38.1 per cent of all respondents with one or more problems reported having a health or social problem that they attributed directly to a justiciable problem.

Figure 15: The Health and Social Impacts of Justiciable Problems

Figure 15: The Health and Social Impacts of Justiciable Problems[Description]

Extreme stress or emotional problems were the most frequently cited impact of experiencing justiciable problems, with 36.6 per cent indicating they had experienced a problem of this nature (n = 1137). This was followed by physical health problems, 23.5 per cent (n = 731), feelings of threats to one"s security and safety, 12.9 per cent (n = 401), increased consumption of alcohol or drugs, 6.4 per cent (n = 198), threatened or actual violence, 5.7 per cent (n = 176) and, finally, problems with children, 5.3 per cent (n = 164).

Problem Types: The percentage of respondents reporting a health or social problem related to a justiciable problem is considerably higher than the average for particular problem types. For example, respondents experiencing a problem in the other family law category reported that they experienced a health or social problem in 81.7 per cent of all cases (n = 76). Respondents experiencing problems in the relationship breakdown category indicated that they had a health or social problem that could be related directly to the justiciable problem in 69.0 per cent of all problems (n = 165). Respondents reported a health or social problem related to 63.1 per cent of all problems related to discrimination. On the other hand, respondents reported a health or social problem in 37.8 per cent of all consumer problems (n = 555) and in 43.0 per cent of all problems related to debt ( n = 583).

The Number of Justiciable Problems

Health and social problems that can be directly attributed to justiciable problems are highly related to the number of problems experienced. Figure 16 shows the percentage of respondents reporting a health or social problem according to the number of justiciable problems they reported during the three year period. Clearly, the likelihood of health care or social problem impacts of justiciable problems is very sensitive to the number of justiciable problems experienced.[217]

Figure 16: Percent of Respondents Reporting a Health or Social Problem By Number of Justiciable Problems

Figure 16: Percent of Respondents Reporting a Health or Social Problem By Number of Justiciable Problems[Description]

This suggests that social exclusion, viewed as an interlocking complex of justiciable and non-legal problems, is related to the increasing number of justiciable problems experienced.

Vulnerable Groups and the Experience of Health and Social Consequences

People self-reporting as being disabled were 3.3 times more likely than the non-disabled to report health and social problems overall as a consequence of justiciable problems.[218] It is assumed that the disability existed prior to the justiciable problem. As well, the consequences include all six types of health and social consequences combined. Thus, the link between justiciable problems and health and social consequences is assumed to represent a generalized high degree of vulnerability of the disabled to a range of consequences related to experiencing justiciable problems. As well, the unemployed[219], people on social assistance[220] and people with incomes below $25,000 per year[221] are all somewhat less than twice as likely as others to report health and social consequences. Several other groups also showed weaker tendencies to report health and social consequences of their justiciable problems. Respondents with three or more children were 1.4 times more likely than respondents with no children to experience consequences overall.[222] Members of visible minority groups[223] and people aged 45 to 64 years of age[224] were also slightly more likely than other respondents to experience health or social consequences of justiciable problems.

Binary logistic regression showed that being disabled, on social assistance, unemployed, having three or more children and being middle aged (45 to 64 year of age) all have a statistically significant independent effect on experiencing health or social problems as a consequence of justiciable problems. The predictive power of the variables is relatively weak with the exception of disability as it is shown in table 47.

Table 47: Predictors of Health and Social Consequences of Justiciable Problems
Health and Social Consequences Combined Estimate Chi-Square Probability Odds Ratio
Intercept - 1.8 71.1 .0001 --
Disabled 1.1 92.4 .0001 3.1
Social Assistance 0.3 7.2 .007 1.3
45 to 64 years of age 0.1 10.2 .001 1.7
Unemployed 0.6 10.8 .001 1.8
Three or more Children 0.5 10.5 .001 1.6

R-Square for the Regression Equation = .15

Justiciable Problems Effecting Emotional Health or Causing Extreme Stress

An increased likelihood of increased use of health care services was a further consequence of experiencing emotional health problems as a consequence of justiciable problems. Among the 1,137 respondents who said they experienced a physical health problem as a consequence of the justiciable problem, more than three quarters, 77.9 per cent, said that the health problem had resulted in an increase in the number of visits to doctors or other health care facilities.

Four employment problems, harassment in the workplace, unfair dismissal from a job, health and safety in the workplace, and unfair disciplinary action at work, ranking one, two, four and six, respectively, make up 27.8 per cent of all problems that respondents linked to experiencing emotional problems or extreme stress. Two family law problems, separation and divorce; a consumer problem involving a large purchase; harassment by a collection agency; and collecting money owed, added to the problems mentioned previously, make up 51 per cent of all problems related to emotional problems.

Table 48: Principal Problems Having Emotional Health Consequences for Respondents
Problem Number Per Cent Cumulative Per Cent
Harassment in the workplace 91 12.2% --
Unfair Dismissal From a Job 57 7.7% 19.9%
Harassment by a Collection Agency 50 6.7% 26.6%
Workplace Health and Safety 33 4.4% 31.0
Power of Attorney, Medical Incapacity 33 4.4% 35.4%
Unfair Disciplinary Action in the Workplace 26 3.5% 38.9%
Separation 24 3.2% 42.1
Debt, Collecting Money Owed 23 3.1% 45.2%
Divorce 22 3.0% 48.2%
Consumer, Large Purchase 21 2.8% 51.0%
All Other Problems 364 49.0% 100.0%

Vulnerable Groups and the Emotional Health Consequences

People with less than high school education were 3.4 times more likely than people with more education to report they had experienced extreme stress or emotional health problems.[225] Respondents with incomes of less than $25,000 were also highly likely to report emotional health problems as a consequence of justiciable problems compared with others, in this case 2.6 times more likely.[226] The disabled were almost twice as likely to report an emotional or stress-related problem, 1.9 times, and members of visible minorities were 1.6 times more likely than all other respondents to report a problem of this type.

Binary logistic regression showed that having lower education and lower income have a statistically significant independent effect on experiencing self-reported high level of stress or emotional problems as a consequence of justiciable problems.

Table 49: Predictors of Stress and Emotional Health Consequences of Justiciable Problems
Stress and Emotional Health Consequences Estimate Chi-Square Probability Odds Ratio
Intercept 0.3 0.41 .52 --
Less Than High School Education 1.4 4.8 .03 4.0
Income Less Than $25,000 0.9 3.7 .05 2.6

R-Square for the Regression Equation = .12

Justiciable Problems Affecting Physical Health

Similar to the emotional problems discussed above, table 50 shows that employment problems are clearly the ones that most frequently effect people's physical health. Three problems, harassment in the workplace, workplace health and safety issues and unfair dismissal from a job taken together make up slightly more than 25% of all problems mentioned. Only seven additional problems, added to the three employment problems already mentioned, comprise one half of all justiciable problems related to physical health problems. These are harassment by a collection agency; two family law problems, separation and divorce; two personal injury problems, one related to traffic accidents ands one related to the workplace; consumer problems related to the purchase of expensive items and unfair disciplinary action at work.

Table 50: Principal Problems Having Physical Health Consequences for Respondents
Problem Number Per Cent Cumulative Per Cent
Harassment in the workplace 69 13.1% --
Workplace Health and Safety 35 6.6% 19.7%
Unfair Dismissal from Job 30 5.7% 25.4%
Harassment by a Collection Agency 24 4.5% 29.9%
Separation 22 4.2% 34.1%
Personal Injury, Traffic Accident 19 3.6% 37.7%
Consumer problem with Large Purchase 17 3.2% 40.9
Divorce 17 3.2% 44.1%
Personal Injury at Work 17 3.2% 47.3%
Unfair Disciplinary Action at Work 14 2.7% 50.0%
All Other Problems 264 50.0% 100.0%

An increased likelihood of increased use of health care services was a further consequence of experiencing emotional health problems as a consequence of justiciable problems. Among the 702 respondents who said they experienced a physical health problem as a consequence of the justiciable problem, more than three quarters, 77.9 per cent, said that the health problem had resulted in an increase number of visits to doctors or other health care facilities.

Four groups were highly likely to experience physical health problems as a consequence of justiciable problems. The disabled were 3.2 times more likely than all others to report having experienced physical problems as a direct consequence of justiciable problems[227], people with incomes of less than $25,000, 1.8 times more likely than other income groups[228], people aged 45 to 64, 1.5 times more likely than all other age groups[229] and members of visible minority groups were 1.4 times more likely than all others[230]. This is exemplified in table 51.

The binary logistic regression retained only disabled as having an independent statistically significant effect on experiencing a physical health problem as a consequence of justiciable problems.

Table 51: Predictors of Physical Health Consequences of Justiciable Problems
Physical Health Consequences Estimate Chi-Square Probability Odds Ratio
Intercept 0.6 2.7 .10 --
Disabled 1.1 35.3 .0001 4.9

R-Square for the Regression Equation = .12


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