WATCH: A drop in life expectancy is one of the disturbing findings in a new report looking at the health of British Columbians. Tess van Straaten takes a look.
B.C. has the highest life expectancy in the country and was once third in the world.
But for the first time in decades, it’s dropping.
“For the first time in 30 years, we’ve seen life expectancy at birth creep down by about three months,” says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “A large proportion of that is because young people are dying from this overdose crisis.”
That’s without taking into account numbers for last year, which saw the overdose crisis continue to worsen.
It’s one of the most alarming findings in a new report released by the provincial health officer Friday morning.
The Taking the Pulse of the Population report looks at a wide range of health markers and how they stack up to targets set for 2023.
“I am concerned and I’m concerned in specific areas,” Dr. Henry says.
Rates of hazardous drinking among women aged 20 to 44 is on the rise.
Women in their early 30s show the most substantial increase.
But males are substantially more likely to engage in hazardous drinking, defined as four or more drinks at a time.
They also have higher smoking rates and are still twice as likely as females to die from accidental injury or preventable causes.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact prevention and public health services and health promotion service have been whittled away,” say Dr. Henry. “Right now, they’re hovering around three per cent and they’ve actually come down in recent years.”
Dr. Henry says a larger percentage of health authority budgets should go to prevention, especially in rural areas.
She’s also warning that the health effects of climate change, such as smoke from the B.C. wildfires blanketing much of the province last August, need to be taken into account.
But there’s also good news — diabetes rates, smoking during pregnancy and hepatitis C are all down.
Vancouver Islanders came out on top for being the most physically active and reporting the best mental health in the province, despite dips in mental health across the board.
In a three-way with the Northern and Interior health regions, Islanders also reported being the most satisfied with their lives.