Alcohol is a big part of the culture in Canada but one that can be harmful.
According to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), there were more hospitalizations for conditions considered to be wholly caused by alcohol at 77,000 in the 2015-16 year in Canada.
That compares to 75,000 hospitalizations for heart attacks in the same time.
The report only counted incidents where a patient was admitted to the hospital, not situations treated in the emergency room.
The national average for hospitalizations caused by alcohol is 239 per 100,000. The numbers across the country vary considerably from that.
The lowest province or territory was New Brunswick at 172, while the Northwest Territories topped the list at 1,315.
Saskatchewan was above the national average, but about par with the western provinces at 345.
The numbers within Saskatchewan vary dramatically as well.
The health region with the lowest hospitalizations was Saskatoon’s with 193 hospitalizations, while the highest was the northern health region Mamawetan Churchill River, with 1,474.
By health authorities:
- Saskatoon – 193
- Five Hills – 222
- Heartland – 245
- Sun Country – 290
- Sunrise – 292
- Regina Qu’Appelle – 339
- Prince Albert Parkland – 421
- Cypress – 434
- Prairie North – 553
- Kelsey Trail – 571
- Keewatin Yatthé – 1245
- Athabasca Health Authority – 1397
- Mamawetan Churchill River – 1474
Men had the highest rates of heavy drinking and hospitalization among people aged 20 and older. However, girls aged 10 to 19 had higher heavy drinking and hospitalization rates than boys the same age.
These numbers have consequences. The report said hospital stays for alcohol-caused conditions cost $8,100, compared to the average cost of a stay at $5,800, mostly because the stays are longer.
The report also found that while people in the highest-income neighbourhoods drank more, people in lower-income neighbourhoods had higher rates of hospitalization entirely for alcohol.
“This alcohol harm paradox may relate to greater susceptibility to the consequences associated with living with lower income, including higher stress levels, fewer social support networks, fewer resources to cope and other risk factors such as poorer diet and physical inactivity,” the report said. “In addition, exposure to unsafe drinking settings, beverage choice and frequency of binge drinking may help explain the alcohol harm paradox.”
The CIHI report also looked at alcohol control policies across the country, from entirely privatized sales and little-to-no government involvement to entirely government controlled sales.
The report found that provinces with higher government control did not necessarily have lower rates of hospitalization. It also found that a high density of alcohol retail outlets didn’t necessarily mean there would be a higher rate of hospitalizations.
In 2012, the province announced changes to Saskatchewan’s alcohol laws, which relaxed some rules. In the last few years, the province said it will not be opening any new government controlled liquor stores and has flipped some SLGA stores to be privately owned.