covid deaths

Way more young people in Ontario died from effects of lockdown than of COVID itself

Numbers continue to emerge to indicate just how devastating and deadly the pandemic has been on the public for reasons other than the virus itself, with the latest data from Statistics Canada adding even more to a bleak picture of mental health and addiction struggles that residents have endured over the last 16 months.

By all accounts, suicide attempts have skyrocketed amid the loss of normal life activities, routines, jobs and livelihoods, as have instances of eating disorders, domestic violence, overdoses, and all sorts of psychological crises in general, especially among young people.

Along with reports from hospitals and medical professionals are the StatsCan figures, released just this week, which quantify provisional deaths and excess mortalities that were unintended side effects of the health crisis.

It is especially noteworthy that the numbers are only representative of overdoses, poisoning and alcohol deaths, and not suicides, murders and other things that the agency says " often require lengthy investigation" and thus are not yet included.

Also to be considered are the consequences of delayed surgeries and treatments for other health issues.

"While we sometimes observe excess mortality that is consistent with the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, data reveal that indirect consequences of the pandemic are also having a significant impact on the number of excess deaths in Canada, particularly among younger Canadians," StatsCan writes.

The agency notes that though only 1,380 Canadians under the age of 65 died from COVID-19 from March 2020 to April 2021, there were approximatly 5,535 more deaths among that age group than what could reasonably be expected in a normal year.

This suggests that "the excess mortality is, in large part, related to other factors such as increases in the number deaths attributed to causes associated with substance use and misuse, including unintentional (accidental) poisonings and diseases and conditions related to alcohol consumption," the report states.

In Ontario specifically, substance use increased substantially from March 2020 onward — with around 1.5 more deaths from overdoses and poisoning last year than the year prior — while resources to help those struggling were also disrupted by COVID-19.

"Many factors may have contributed to this increase, including Ontario's declaring a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 17, 2020," StatsCan states.

This is compared to COVID deaths, which for ages 0 to 39 in Ontario have amounted to less than 0.1 per cent of all cases in that age range. The mortality rate for ages 40 to 59 is slightly higher, at 0.4 per cent.

It will be interesting, though obviously tragic, to see what the figures are as far as suicides, mental health crises and other phenomenon over the course of the last year and a bit as that information becomes more available — and to see how residents make their recovery from what was an undeniably unprecedented and unfathomably difficult period of time.

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