The Canadian blood supply relies heavily on a small number of donors—with young adults donating at higher rates—which may prove problematic as the population ages, according to a new study from McMaster University.
The research, published in open access format in the International Journal of Health Geographics, examined what specific factors had an impact on blood donation in this country.
"Like other countries, Canada's population is aging and the implications of this need to be better understood from the perspective of blood supply," says Antonio Páez, lead researcher and assistant professor in the department of Geography & Earth Sciences at McMaster University. "So while younger people are more likely to donate, they are also a declining share of Canada's population."
Almost every single Canadian will require donor blood at some point in their lifetime, but less than 4% of eligible donors donate, explains Páez.
The team of researchers used records from Canadian Blood Services, the national charitable organization charged with overseeing the safety of the blood supply, which operates 40 permanent collection sites and more than 20,000 donor clinics annually.
The study found those aged 15 to 24 were the most likely to donate, while those who are typically more entrenched in the workforce—aged 25 to 54—were the least likely to donate blood.
Similarly, immigrants and the wealthy were less likely to donate, while English-speaking Canadians, highly educated individuals or those employed in health-related occupations were more likely to give blood. Researchers also found that those living in small cities or towns were far more likely to donate than people who live in larger, metropolitan cities.
"Blood products are an essential component of modern medicine and necessary to support many life-saving and life-prolonging procedures. To achieve sustainable levels of donations, there needs to be targeted campaigns to encourage a greater number of Canadians to consider blood donation," says Páez.
According to researchers, 25% of Canadians believe there are some risks associated with giving blood, but an aggressive education campaign would help expand the donor database, which is estimated at about 12.5 million eligible donors.
The study was funded by Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Blood Services and Environics Analytics.
- Saberton et al. Geographical variations in the correlates of blood donor turnout rates: an investigation of Canadian metropolitan areas. International Journal of Health Geographics, 2009; 8 (1): 56 DOI: 10.1186/1476-072X-8-56
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