Vancouver Island communities rank above the provincial average for depression and related illnesses.

Vancouver Islanders more depressed than other B.C. residents

Medical records show higher prevalence of depression and anxiety here than on the mainland, doctors uncertain why

So much for the stereotype of the easy-going laid-back Vancouver Island lifestyle.

Island residents suffer from depression and anxiety at significantly higher rates than others across British Columbia.

Every single Island community has a prevalence of depression-related illness that exceeds the B.C. average of slightly more than one in five people. For five Island communities, the rate is more than one in four.

So far, no one has collected enough information, or crunched the numbers in a way that definitively explains the situation, or what needs to be done to address it. And in the absence of concrete evidence, public health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback was reluctant to guess.

“I’m not sure we have an explanation so I am not going to speculate,” he said. “(Depression) is such a common occurrence in the general population.”

Studies show poverty, substance abuse and the incidence of other chronic health conditions can be contributing factors to depression, as can lack of job satisfaction and family and community connection. The rate is also somewhat higher among older populations. People also point fingers at the weather, exercise and connection to nature as elements that may come into play.

How these factors contribute to the situation on Vancouver Island is unclear. Part of the problem is communities don’t follow expected patterns related to size, geography and socio-economic status.

Statistically speaking, Lake Cowichan is relatively small and poor and depressed. The North Island is relatively small and poor and happy. The highest rates of depression and anxiety are found in the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the lowest next door in Nanaimo.

Another consideration in the uncertainty is the source data; depression is an illness that lacks objective physiological markers and is dependent on the self-reporting of patients. Are Island doctors more likely to diagnose depression? Are residents more likely to report it?

“People in the North Island physically aren’t that well, but they give us the highest standard of happiness,” Hasselback said. “How can we stimulate a greater incidence of happiness?”

Lack of explanation aside, he appreciates that these numbers can draw needed attention to the fact depression-related illnesses are the most common chronic medical conditions experienced on Vancouver Island.

“If you put it into context with other chronic illnesses it is by far the highest,” he said. “You’re raising all the same questions that I would like to see more openly discussed in conversations.”

Hasselback said the situation needs to become common knowledge in order to give this type of mental illness the same level of legitimacy society grants to physical ailments.

According to the federal government’s 2015 chronic disease surveillance system report — which uses a different tracking system than the B.C. Ministry of Health — about one in seven Canadians are treated for mental health issues annually. B.C.’s rate of 15.1% is the second highest in the country.

That same report states at least one in three Canadians will experience a mood disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or substance dependence in their lifetime and cites a 2010 study showing depression, anxiety and stress as the leading cause of long- and short-term disability claims in Canada.

“We need to have the same level of tolerance and understanding,” Hasselback said. “I think we’ve got plenty of ability to get better. The last thing we need to do is to persist in keeping a veil over these things.”

For information on depression-related illnesses and the services available on Vancouver Island click here. To speak to a counsellor, call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line toll free at 1-888-494-3888.

 

PREVALENCE OF DEPRESSION/ANXIETY

Lake Cowichan 26.8%

Ladysmith/Chemainus 26.6%

Cowichan 26.0%

Comox Valley 25.1%

Alberni/Clayoquot 25.1%

Victoria/Esquimalt/Oak Bay 24.7%

Sooke/Westshore 24.6%

Vancouver Island overall 23.9%

Campbell River 23.5%

Saanich 22.8%

North Island 22.1%

Parksville/Qualicum 21.9%

Nanaimo 21.6%

British Columbia overall 21.3%

— Ministry of Health, based on 2013 medical records

 

Just Posted

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

Sun on its way after Greater Victoria sees wettest July in six years

Environment Canada meteorologists say the drizzle is likely to end soon

After Victoria dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

Join Oak Bay’s heritage walk and scavenger hunt this Saturday

Hunt seeks significant examples of historical architecture in Oak Bay

VIDEO: 1,400 classic cars roll into Victoria for Deuce Days

The four-day festival highlights classic hot rods, with a special emphasis on cars built in 1932

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

LETTER: Refining bitmen not a good idea

One of the arguments against increasing the capacity of the Trans Mountain… Continue reading

LETTER: Welcome to Nevergreen Mall

Re: Work starts on mall expansion (News, July 17) Welcome to Nevergreen… Continue reading

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Most Read