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

Massive plaza, residential and retail project coming to Esquimalt

The Esquimalt Town Centre set to sell its first units in October

Four charges approved in Saanich hit and run that left woman in coma

‘This was a significant crash that caused serious injuries,’ say police

VicPD called to Beacon Hill Park after body found

Suspicious circumstances not ruled out in apparent sudden death

Second bat found at Greater Victoria elementary school tests positive for rabies

Island Health confirms second rabies case, this time in Saanich

VIDEO: B.C.’s famous cat Grandpa Mason has died

The story of the feral cat that started fostering kittens touched people around the world

Trudeau seeks meeting with Singh to apologize for blackface, brownface photos

‘I will be apologizing to him personally as a racialized Canadian,’ Trudeau said Friday

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

Charges stayed against Alberta RCMP officer in alleged off-duty Whistler assault

Const. Vernon Hagen instead completed an alternative measures program

VIDEO: Fire destroys Williams Lake strip club targeted by past arson attempts

Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge destroyed by fire, as well as New World Tea and Coffee House

B.C. man guilty of first-degree murder in Yukon killing

Edward James Penner, 22, was given the mandatory life sentence for the 2017 slaying of 25-year-old Adam Cormack

Woman stabbed at least five times in Nelson during random attack

Victim is in hospital, suspect is in police custody

‘I’d do it again,’ says B.C. man who swam naked, drunk in Toronto shark tank

David Weaver, of Nelson, was drunk when he went to Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto on Oct. 12 2018

Most Read