What are the biggest health risks facing Canadians today – and what should we be most concerned about heading into 2019? According to the Chief Public Health Officer’s 2018 report on the state of public health in Canada as well as data and reports from Health Canada’s website, there’s a lot to talk about.
From an ongoing opioid crisis that has Canadians faced with the prospect of a nationally decreasing life expectancy, to new challenges in youth substance abuse, Canadians must rally now more than ever to educate themselves and work together toward a healthy future. These are the most common health concerns in Canada.
10. Mood Disorders
According to data from Statistics Canada, over 2.6 million Canadians, aged 12 and over, suffered from a mood disorder in 2017, a number that has increased from the previous year. In a 2018 brief report, the Public Health Agency of Canada noted that mood and/or anxiety disorders are most prevalent in the “working-age” population of those Canadians 20-64 years old.
Injuries, specifically self-harm, falls and road injuries, attributed for 6% of Canadian deaths in 2016, as noted in the Chief Public Health Officer’s 2018 report.
Diabetes ranks in as one of the top chronic diseases attributed to deaths in Canada today. The most recent data provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada reveals that 3 million Canadians were living with diagnosed diabetes in 2013-2014, with 200,000 newly-diagnosed cases in that year alone.
In terms of prevention where possible, healthy lifestyle choices play a part in controlling risk for some types of type 2 diabetes, and there are medicinal options for those with pre-diabetes. Based on a lack of understanding of the causes of type 1 diabetes, there are no known measures of prevention currently in place.
7. Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is the second most common cause of death among Canadians, and while the CVD death rate has been declining in Canada since the mid-1960s, there is still much need for concern. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates 1.6 million Canadians have heart disease or live with the effects of a stroke. According to the Chief Public Health Officer, more than 20% of Canadians over the age of 20 experience cardiovascular disease or other chronic diseases.
Cancer and other major chronic diseases like a cardiovascular disease; neurological disorders and diabetes continue to be the leading causes of death among all Canadians. In 2016, there were 273,000 deaths in Canada, 89% of which were attributed to chronic diseases. As noted by the Chief Public Health Officer, taking a proactive approach in prevention and health-management as we age will go a long way to improving our chances against these diseases and ensuring our best quality of life.
The most recent CTADS (Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey) reveals that vaping products used by youth is steady and continues to fall below usage rates in the U.S. However, with the steady influx of new vaping-related products into the Canadian market, Health Canada is working to maintain a pulse on the relationship between youth and vaping as it continues to develop.
4. The Opioid Crisis: Spotlight on Fentanyl
Canada Health reports that the country’s illegal drug supply is being contaminated with illegal fentanyl and similar drugs which have no visible characteristics, have no taste or smell, and are potent enough to be fatal in very small doses. Fentanyl is 20 to 40 times stronger than heroin, 100 times more potent than morphine, and can be fatal to the average adult by consuming only a tiny amount equal to a few grains of salt.
3. Childhood Obesity
According to Health Canada, obesity rates in Canada for youth have nearly tripled in the last 30 years. Childhood obesity puts those affected at a higher risk for the development of further health issues later on in life. Further, children and youth struggling with obesity are more likely to remain obese in their adulthood.
2. Physical Inactivity
As the Chief Public Health Officer points out early in her report, “Many chronic diseases can be prevented or delayed…” and often the key to prevention lies in getting to what she identifies as the “root causes of risks” – namely, tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating and alcohol abuse.
The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that adopting healthy behavours early on is vital in taking first steps to healthy living down the road. Unfortunately, less than 10% of children (aged 5 to 17) meet the 24-hour movement guidelines, set out to establish healthy standards for children and youth when it comes to activity, sedentary behavior and sleep. As for adults, 80% of people over the age of 18 do not meet physical activity guidelines.
1. Youth Substance Abuse
The focus of this year’s report by the Chief Public Health Officer was clear: concerning trends in youth substance abuse and future concern as it relates to the recent legalization of cannabis. As detailed in the Chief Public Health Officer’s report, almost 25% of youth in grades 7 to 12 exhibit drinking behavior that is considered “high-risk”. The report also highlights a rapid increase in hospitalizations related to opioids amongst young adults ages 15-24, over the past 5 years.