Rate of alcohol, drug abuse ranks lowest in Canada, report shows

Toronto residents are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than those who live in smaller cities or in rural areas. In fact, the rate of abuse here is the lowest in the country.


One reason for that perhaps surprising statistic may be the city’s large percentage of recent immigrants, a new study suggests.


The research, recently published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, essentially debunks the common perception that urban areas are jammed full of stress-fuelled alcoholics and junkies.


Across Canada, the prevalence of substance abuse in the general population of large cities was below both the national and provincial averages, said Scott Veldhuizen, a research analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and main author of the study.

“It’s not something we expected,” he said, adding that immigrants, many of whom avoid alcohol for cultural or religious reasons, represent at least one explanation for the discrepancy.

The study suggests that mid-sized cities, the Maritimes and the Prairies suffer from a higher than average prevalence of substance abuse.

“A lot of it comes down to things like migration and economics and how prosperous and how well-off these regions are,” Veldhuizen said. “When you have more poverty and more inequality, you tend to have more problems generally with respect to crime or substance abuse.”

Explanations for the discrepancies are somewhat speculative.

Substance abuse also trends higher among those with less education.

It may not be the case, though, that Torontonians drink less overall, but rather that they drink in moderation or do not perceive their boozing as abuse.

Depressive drinking?

  • Other studies have found that people living farther north experience more depression due to fewer hours of sunlight, which may lead to substance abuse.