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

St. Luke Cedar Hill Anglican Church hosts open house, spring cemetery clean up

Learn more about the region’s oldest cemetery May 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Three arrested in Sooke drug bust

RCMP targeted traffickers in fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine

Standalone Beach Drive plum tree gets love

Ivy pulled off plum tree next to Queens’ Park

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

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

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Most Read