A new report by BC’s provincial health officer is pointing out that hazardous drinking behaviours like binge drinking are on the rise, alongside worsening mental health.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer gave the update on the health of British Columbians.
It’s the first overall health status report in 15 years and includes a number of goal targets to reach by 2023. It’s also meant to act as an accountability document.
Although the indication is that “overall, British Columbians’ health is good by many accepted measures,” there are still plenty of areas for improvement: disparity in life expectancy, early childhood development, and simply eating more fruits and vegetables were all listed as key areas to work on.
The report also shows two key areas with worsening trends – hazardous drinking behaviours and mental health.
Hazardous drinking, more commonly known as binge drinking, was defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion.
A report done by the Ministry of Health found that excessive alcohol consumption was a leading contributing cause of death among British Columbians under 25 years of age. Data from the report also showed that the number of British Columbians engaging in hazardous drinking has been on the rise in recent years.
Men were also much more likely to take part in binge drinking; every year of data showed that males drank more than twice as much as women did. Those between the ages of 20 to 34 are among the age group that’s most likely to binge drink.
Regarding mental health, the amount of British Columbians (over the age of 12) who reported positive mental health has been on a steady decline. The most recent survey reveals that only 68.4% of British Columbians felt like they had positive mental health.
The report projects that if no changes or improvements are made, that number will drop to 65% by 2023.
When comparing mental health between the sexes, data shows that men were more likely to report positive mental health. Fewer women reported positive mental health, although both genders have been on the decline in recent years.
The report also gave several suggestions for factors that would affect the mental health of certain age groups.
For individuals between the ages of 20 to 40, identified as “Generation Squeeze” in the study, lower salaries, higher debt, and high housing costs were negative factors.
Ages 40 to 60, identified as “the sandwich generation,” were acknowledged as taking care of both aging parents and dependent children.
Data also indicated that as British Columbians get older, they become less and less likely to report positive mental health.