The poorest Canadians are struggling to pay for life’s necessities, forcing them to do without such everyday basics as eyeglasses, dental care and furniture — and the recession has only made their plight worse, says a major think-tank.

In a study released today, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives paints a disturbing picture of how the poor are unable to afford many of the goods and services most Canadians consider “reasonable for normal living” in modern society.

Entitled The Affordability Gap: Spending Differences Between Canada’s Rich and Poor, the report argues that widening divide also means low-income Canadians face a greater risk of “social exclusion.”

Forget cellphones, personal computers or high-speed Internet. Basic recreational activities are out of reach for most, making the poor less likely to splurge. Their children often go without sports equipment, the report said.

“The poorest 20 per cent of Canadian households live in worlds far removed from the richest 20 per cent,” said Steve Kerstetter, the study’s author and a research associate at the centre.

Average spending for the poorest households totalled $22,339 in 2007, while the richest 20 per cent spent about $143,361.