CIHI Report: Alcohol Harm in Canada

Alcohol harm — the negative consequences of alcohol consumption — is a serious and growing health concern and a leading cause of injury and death in Canada. This report provides an overview of Canada-wide variations in alcohol consumption (including alcohol sales and heavy drinking) and alcohol harm using CIHI’s new Hospitalizations Entirely Caused by Alcohol indicator. It also identifies populations at risk of harm and looks at the provinces’ and territories’ alcohol policies.

Alcohol Harm in Canada: British Columbia

Rates of hospitalizations entirely caused by alcohol higher than the Canadian average, varied within the province in 2015–2016

  • Canada-wide variation: British Columbia had the highest provincial rate at 349 hospitalizations per 100,000 population (239 per 100,000 in Canada). In comparison, the lowest provincial rate was 172 per 100,000 in New Brunswick.
  • Variation by neighbourhood income: The rate was 2.2 times higher in the lowest income quintile than in the highest income quintile (540 per 100,000 versus 241 per 100,000).
  • Variation by geography: The rate was 1.6 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas (490 per 100,000 versus 307 per 100,000). The Northwest Health Service Delivery Area had the highest rate (590 per 100,000); this was 3.4 times higher than the Richmond Health Service Delivery Area’s rate, which was the lowest (172 per 100,000).

Lower heavy drinking rate, higher alcohol sales than the Canadian average [i]

  • Heavy drinking, 2014 (self-reported): 16% of British Columbians self-reported heavy drinking,[ii] compared with 18% across Canada. 20% of males and 12% of females self-reported heavy drinking, compared with the respective Canadian averages of 23% and 13%.
  • Alcohol sales, 2014–2015: The absolute volume of pure alcohol sold per capita in British Columbia was 8.7 litres, compared with 8.1 litres across Canada.


Alcohol policies and interventions with demonstrated evidence of effectiveness in reducing alcohol harm in the international literature

  • Alcohol control system: There is a low proportion of government ownership of alcohol retail in British Columbia.
  • Physical availability: There are 28 alcohol retail stores per 100,000 population in British Columbia (excluding off-sales), compared with the Canadian average of 50 per 100,000. The maximum number of off-premise retail hours is 14, compared with the Canadian average of 15.
  • Minimum alcohol pricing: British Columbia has implemented 2 of 4 alcohol minimum pricing policies examined in this report: minimum pricing for off-premise retail and minimum pricing for on-premise sales.
  • Screening, brief intervention and referral (SBIR): SBIR is included in a mental health and addictions strategy.

[i] Sources: Statistics Canada. Table 183-0023: Sales and per capita sales of alcoholic beverages by liquor authorities and other retail outlets, by value, volume, and absolute volume, annual. CANSIM (database). Accessed April 7, 2017.
Statistics Canada. Table 105-0501: Health indicator profile, annual estimates, by age group and sex, Canada, provinces, territories, health regions (2013 boundaries) and peer groups, occasional. CANSIM (database). Accessed April 7, 2017.

[ii] Defined as having 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women on 1 occasion at least once a month over a 1-year period.

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