More than 230,000 Ontario adults seriously contemplated suicide in the last year, finds a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) study.

“Suicide is a major public health issue, and these data confirm that large numbers of Ontario adults report having suicidal thoughts,” says Dr. Hayley Hamilton, CAMH scientist and co-principal investigator of the study, the CAMH Monitor. “While we’ve asked about mental health in past editions of the survey, we felt it was important to include a specific question about suicide so that we can better understand the scope of the issue.”

Read: Recognizing the warning signs of mental distress

Results also reveal a significant overall increase in self-rated poor mental health, to 7.1% in 2013 from 4.7% in 2003—this translates to an estimated 716,000 Ontario adults in 2013. This increase was especially evident during the past five years among those aged 18 to 29, rising to 12% in 2013 from about 3% in 2009.

“We are noticing higher rates of self-reported poor mental health among young adults,” she says. “This could be an indication that young adults and youth transitioning to adulthood need more support from family, friends, and health professionals when it comes to their mental health and overall well-being.”

Read: Taking action on mental illness

Increasing rates of cannabis use are also cause for concern, with past year cannabis use climbing to 14% of Ontario adults in 2013 from 8.7% in 1996. While 40% of past year users report using cannabis less than once per month, the percentage reporting daily use is 19%. Among cannabis users, rates of self-reported cannabis use problems jumped to 55.4% in 2013 from 38.5% in 2012.

“The fact that we are seeing a steady increase in cannabis use and that more than half of those who use cannabis regularly are saying it’s problematic underscores the need for a public health approach to cannabis control,” says Dr. Robert Mann, CAMH senior scientist and co-principal investigator of the CAMH Monitor.

The proportion of Ontario adults who report non-medical use of prescription opioids in the past year dropped significantly to 2.8% in 2013 from 7.7% in 2010. However, use among 18- to 29-year-olds remained stable at approximately 7% in this same time period, and as many as 295,000 Ontario adults (3%) reported non-medical use of prescription opioids in 2013.

“It is encouraging to see that the number of adults who report using prescription opioids for non-medical reasons has dropped, and these declines may be reflecting efforts on the part of government and others to address this problem,” he says. “However, there is still a significant number of people who report using these drugs inappropriately, and it is concerning that rates of non-medical use have not changed among younger adults.”

Read: Substance use and the workplace

Rates of alcohol consumption are also high, with nearly one in four drinkers reporting that they exceed Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines. There are also increases in daily drinking among those who have consumed alcohol in the past year, to 8.5% in 2013 from 5% in 2002 who report having at least one drink per day. The results also show that women are drinking at higher rates.

“We continue to see that more women are drinking more frequently,” says Dr. Mann. Rates of daily drinking among women increased to 5.6% in 2013 from 2.6% in 2001. “This increase is worrying because heavy alcohol use is associated with a number of health risks, including cancer.”

While rates of consumption are increasing, a positive finding is that drinking and driving continues to decrease. From 1996 to 2013, driving after drinking is down by more than half, to 5% from 13%.

Another positive finding in the survey is that the majority of Ontario adults, 83%, do not smoke cigarettes and current cigarette smoking has significantly declined to 17% in 2013 from 27% in 1996. Daily smoking shows the same pattern, declining to 13% in 2013 from 23% in 1996.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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