More people in N.E. Ontario hospitalized due to alcohol than rest of province, Canada

NORTHEASTERN ONTARIO—While a study released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information report outlines far more people per capita in Northeastern Ontario were hospitalized in 2015-2016 with a condition caused solely by alcohol compared to the rest of the province and Canada; that shows alcohol leads to more hospitalizations than heart attacks do in Canada, a registered nurse and lead for alcohol prevention with the Sudbury and District Health Unit (SDHU) says the statistics are actually worse. This is because they only talk about those people admitted to hospitals by alcohol—it does not include those visits by patients to hospital emergency departments.

“It is pretty scary,” stated Eric Paquette, told the Recorder late last week. “I trust the report is accurate, it’s a reality, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. They talked about hospitality admissions but are not telling about the number of visitors to emergency departments by those who are victims of alcohol.”

The report-Alcohol Harm in Canada: Examining Hospitalizations Entirely Caused by Alcohol and Strategies to Reduce Alcohol Harm-indicates that there were about 77,000 hospitalizations caused by alcohol in Canada in 2015-2016 compared to about 75,000 caused by heart attacks.

For the area served by the North East Local Health Integration Network (which includes Manitoulin Island), the rate of hospitalizations per 100,000 people was 356, 83 percent greater than Ontario’s rate of 195. The rate within the North East LHIN was also nearly one-third more than the national rate of 239.

The hospitalization rate caused entirely by alcohol was 2.5 times more for lower-income neighbourhoods than for the highest-income neighbourhoods, but low-income groups typically had a lower rate of heavy drinking, the report indicates.

The numbers also vary by gender, with males tending to have higher rates than females.

According to the report, males age 20 and older had higher rates of heavy drinking and hospitalizations than females in the same age group. However, among those age 10 to 19, girls had higher hospitalization rates than boys, at 63 per and 45 per 100,000, respectively.

In the  North East LHIN, the rate of hospitalization for males was 449 per 100,000 compared to 265 for females.

The report shows the majority of hospitalizations overall were linked to mental health and addictions, which accounted for nearly three out of four visits entirely caused by alcohol.

The report noted how evidence shows restricting the availability of alcohol by regulating the times it can be sold and limiting outlet density may decrease alcohol harm.

The report suggests that “government control over the alcohol retail environment can reduce alcohol consumption and, consequently, alcohol harm.”

“We know alcohol alone impacts families, individuals and hospitalization rates,” said Mr. Paquette. “Its interesting that in so many ways, like marketing, alcohol is so normalized nowadays.  But it is not normal, it is a  drug, and helps to cause many health impacts, such as cardio-vascular problems, heart attacks and stroke, diabetes, crime, enforcement, employment.”

“For us (SDHU) it’s a priority,” said Mr. Paquette. “We work with partners, and community based organizations to reduce alcohol use; to reduce the frequency, severity and impact of preventable substance misuse.”

Mr. Paquette said the SDHU looks at all avenues to get it’s message out. For instance, “through our efforts on social media program, “Alcohol-Let’s Get Real,” it creates opportunities for conversation on alcohol use and abuse and provides the community a voice to share opinions and voice concerns on awareness risks.”