A new study finds that rural Ontarians are engaging in more dangerous drinking than urban residents, and that gap has grown during the pandemic.
to me The study, led by researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Fewer people in Ontario’s cities ended up in the emergency room for alcohol abuse during the first six months of the pandemic, while the number remained steady in rural areas.
At the same time, total emergency room visits have declined, meaning that alcohol represents a larger slice of the total and an increasing share of Ontario’s health care burden.
“The spiritual piece is really interesting,” said Dr. Daniel Miran, lead author of the study.
“Not only have we seen very stark differences in the urban and rural experience during COVID, but this was a problem that existed before the pandemic started.”
WATCH: Dr. Daniel Miran on the urban-rural divide:
More young women to the ER for alcohol
in a previous jobMyran found that the divide between urban and rural Ontario has been around for years. It only expanded during the pandemic.
“If you go back to 2003 and start tracking how these visits change over time, you will notice that alcohol-related emergency visits in rural Ontario are increasing much faster than they are in urban Ontario,” Miran said. He is also a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa.
Most of this increase is occurring among young women, Miran said.
“You see growth in young rural women in a way that you don’t see in old people and you don’t see in city men,” he said.
Using emergency room visits, the study captured a variety of harms caused by alcohol, including intoxication, withdrawal, and liver disease.
The research comes as some groups have reported drinking more alcohol during the pandemic for a variety of reasons.
Miran also said the study shows how different groups have suffered from the pandemic as visits to alcohol reveal disparities. He said the research does not conclude what might cause these disparities.
The shortage of rural family physicians
Robert Cushman, chief medical officer of health for Renfrew County, said the increase in rural visits to the emergency room may be due to a shortage of family physicians in those communities, shifting the most severe cases to the emergency by default.
“With our Virtual Treatment Evaluation Center in Renfrew County, we were able to mitigate some of these problems,” Cushman said. “But it is clear that other areas in rural Ontario did not have that option available to them.”
At the same time, he added, the drop in hospital visits may be due to fear of COVID-19.
The study also found clear differences based on age and income with people who are older, who live on a lower income, and have fewer emergency room visits related to alcohol.
Ottawa Morning8:03A study in Ottawa finds that rural Ontario has been hardest hit by alcohol during the pandemic