TORONTO -- Health Quality Ontario issued a report Wednesday showing that the poorer people are, the more likely they are to have shorter lifespans and to suffer from multiple chronic conditions.

The report found men living in the poorest neighbourhoods die, on average, more than four years earlier than the men in rich areas, while women in poorer areas die an average of two years earlier than wealthier women.

The government advisory agency said the poorest 20 per cent of people are nearly twice as likely as the richest 20 per cent to have two or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes and a mental health issue.

It also found only about 60 per cent of the poorest people have prescription drug insurance, compared with nearly 90 per cent of the wealthiest people.

Half the people living in the poorest urban neighbourhoods are overdue for colorectal cancer screening, compared with just over one-third in wealthier areas.

"Poor people in Ontario pay for their lower income with their health," said Joshua Tepper, president and CEO of Health Quality Ontario.

"Ultimately, our report aims to help break down the barriers to better quality health care and improve outcomes," he said in a release.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said "unfortunately and regrettably," the findings in the Health Quality Ontario report are no surprise.

"We've known for quite some time in Ontario and around the world that individuals of lower social and economic income have worse health outcomes," he said.

"In fact, their access to health care is more challenging as well."

Hoskins said the government has to keep developing fair, equal access to health care, but warned that access isn't the only issue.

"One's outcomes are not solely based on access to the health care system," he said. "They're also based on things like adequate housing, income security, educational opportunities and the quality of the air and water around you."

Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, clinical chief at Health Quality Ontario, said the report entitled "Income and Health: Opportunities for Health Equity in Ontario," will help in the development of improvements to the health care system.

"Your income should not determine how healthy you are, or the quality of care you receive, but according to our findings...this is a reality for many people," he said.