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

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

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read