In a developed country like Canada, life expectancy is only supposed to increase.
A combination of modern science, improved safety standards, and an overall quality of life that’s unparalleled in human history, means that statistically, each generation should live longer than the one that came before it.
So it would be extremely troubling if Canadians’ average life expectancy were to decline or even if it were to fail to increase.
Yet that is exactly what is happening, Statistics Canada revealed yesterday (May 30).
“Life expectancy at birth did not increase from 2016 to 2017 for either males or females, a first in over four decades,” the federal agency stated.
How could this happen?
“This was largely attributable to the opioid crisis,” the report continued.
There are now so many fatal overdoses occurring in Canada that this single cause of death has stalled the average life expectancy for the entire population.
Even more astounding, from 2016 to 2017, life expectancy in five provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan) did increase and, in Ontario, did not change. And so, for the wider country to record no increase in life expectancy, there had to have been a truly horrendous number of overdoses in other areas.
Of course, there was. In one province specifically, Statistics Canada noted.
“Increases in life expectancy in four provinces [plus Nunavut] are largely offset by a marked decline in British Columbia,” the report explained. “Life expectancy at birth in British Columbia fell for the second year in a row, decreasing by 0.3 years for men and by 0.1 years for women from 2016 to 2017.”
The report reads as if its author was aware of how unbelievable it might sound for a single cause of death in a single province to drag down an entire country’s average life expectancy.
“By examining changes in deaths by age and cause, in 2017,” it reads, “it was possible to identify the main factor that was responsible for the recent change in life expectancy in Canada, and in particular in British Columbia: accidental drug overdoses among young adult men.”
There were 1,514 illicit-drug overdose deaths across B.C. last year, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.
From the time the synthetic-opioid fentanyl arrived in B.C. in 2013 up to the end of March 2019, the number of people who have died in the province after taking drugs numbers 5,496.