Alcohol Use

Alcohol Use Data

While the serious health and social impacts of illegal drug and non-medical prescription drug use is of concern, alcohol remains the most commonly misused substance in Ottawa. [1]

When consumed in high quantities, alcohol use can lead to high-risk behaviours, injuries, and death. It can also contribute to a range of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke and certain types of cancer. [2,3]

Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRADG) were designed to help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce their immediate and long-term alcohol-related harm. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion for males and four or more for females. Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking at least once a month in the past year.

For additional information on the health effects of alcohol and resources in Ottawa, please refer to Ottawa Public Health's Alcohol webpage.

Adult Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol Consumption Trends Over Time

In Ottawa:

  • An estimated 636,200 adults (84% of the population 19 years and older in 2015/16) drank alcohol in the past year. [4]
  • Binge drinking is common. In 2015/16, half (52%) of adults reported binge drinking in the past year (Figure 1).
  • One fifth (21%) of adults reported heavy drinking in 2015/16 (Figure 1).
  • One fifth (21%) of adults exceeded weekly limits of alcohol consumption in 2015/16, as per Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRADG)(Figure 1).
  • Historically, Ottawa has higher rates of binge drinking, heavy drinking, and exceeding the weekly limits than the rest of Ontario; however from 2013-2016, there was no significant difference between Ottawa and the rest of Ontario on these indicators. [4,5]

Figure 1. Percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who reported binge drinking, heavy drinking, or exceeding the weekly limits of Canada’s LRADG, from 2000 to 2016

A line graph showing the percentage of adults aged 19 years and older who reported binge drinking, heavy drinking or exceeding the weekly limits of Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines  between 2000 and 2016.

 Data Source and Notes for Figure 1
Ottawa Public Health. Canadian Community Health Survey 2000 to 2016. Ontario Share File. Statistics Canada.
  • The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) is an annual national population health survey conducted by Statistics Canada.
  • In 2015, Statistics Canada changed the design, methodology and questionnaire of the CCHS. As a result of the changes from the 2015 redesign, caution should be taken when comparing estimates to previous years.
  • Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion for males and four or more drinks for females.
  • Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking at least once a month in the past year.
  • Error bars in the figure represent 95% confidence intervals.
 Data Table for Figure 1
Table 1. Percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who reported binge drinking, heavy drinking, or exceeding weekly limits of Canada’s LRADG, from 2000 to 2016
YearOttawa adults who binge drank in past year (%)Ottawa adults who drank heavily in past year (%)Ottawa adults who exceeded weekly alcohol consumption limits (%)
2000 34.2 15.3 22.9
2003 39.1 18.3 26.9
2005 40.9 19 28.3
2007 40.6 19.9 28.8
2009 40.9 20.6 26.1
2011 44.2 22.9 26.7
2013/14 42.2 19.5 22.3
Survey change      
2015/16 52.1 20.8 20.9

Heavy Drinking Trends by Socio-demographics

In Ottawa:

  • Men (25%) were more likely than women (17%) to report heavy drinking in the past year (Figure 2).
  • Heavy drinking decreased with increasing age. Young adults aged 19 to 24 years (34%) and adults aged 25 to 44 years (29%) drank more heavily than 45-64 year olds (17%) and adults 65 years and older (5*%) (Figure 2).
  • Adults with a mother tongue language other than English or French (10%*) were less likely to report heavy drinking than those with English (25%) or French (24%) mother tongue languages. Canadian-born residents (25%) were more likely than immigrants (11%*) to report heavy drinking (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who reported heavy drinking in the past year, by selected socio-demographic indicators in 2015/16

Percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who reported heavy drinking in the past year, by selected socio-economic factors, in 2015/16

 Data Source and Notes for Figure 2
Ottawa Public Health. Canadian Community Health Survey 2015/16. Ontario Share File. Statistics Canada.
  • The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) is an annual national population health survey conducted by Statistics Canada.
  • Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking at least once a month in the past year.
  • Error bars in the figure represent 95% confidence intervals.
  • *Interpret with caution – high sampling variability.
 Data Table for Figure 2
Table 2. Percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who reported heavy drinking in the past year, by selected socio-demographic indicators in 2015/16
Socio-demographic IndicatorOttawa adults who drank heavily in the past year (%)
Ottawa 20.8
Ontario-less-Ottawa 19.2
Women 17.1
Men 24.7
19-24 Years 33.9*
25-44 Years 28.5
45-64 Years 16.8*
65+ Years 5.4*
Mother Tongue is English 25
Mother Tongue is French 23.9*
Mother Tongue is a Language Other than English or French 10.2*
Canadian-born 24.6
Immigrant 10.7*

Weekly Alcohol Consumption Trends by Socio-demographics

In Ottawa:

  • Men (23%) were more likely than women (19%) to exceed the weekly limits of Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRADG)(Figure 3).
  • Young adults (aged 19 to 24 years) and adults aged 25 to 44 years were more likely to exceed weekly limits than adults aged 45 years and older (Figure 3).
  • Adults with a mother tongue language other than English or French (12%*) were less likely to exceed weekly limits than those with English (26%) or French (22%) mother tongue language. Canadian-born residents (25%) were more likely than immigrants (13%*) to exceed weekly alcohol consumption limits (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who exceeded the weekly limits of Canada’s LRADG in the past year, by selected socio-demographic indicators in 2015/16
Horizontal bar chart of the percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who exceeded the weekly limits of Canada’s LRADG in the past year, by selected socio-demographic indicators, in 2015/16

 Data Source and Notes for Figure 3
Ottawa Public Health. Canadian Community Health Survey 2015/16. Ontario Share File. Statistics Canada.
  • The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) is an annual national population health survey conducted by Statistics Canada.
  • Error bars in the figure represent 95% confidence intervals.
  • * Interpret with caution – high sampling variability.
 Data Table for Figure 3
Table 3. Percentage of Ottawa adults (19 years and older) who exceeded the weekly limits of Canada’s LRADG in the past year, by selected socio-demographic indicators in 2015/16
Socio-demographic IndicatorOttawa adults who exceeded the weekly alcohol consumption limits (%)
Ottawa 20.9
Ontario less Ottawa 19.3
Women 19
Men 22.9
19-24 Years 25.6*
25-44 Years 24.9
45-64 Years 17.3
65+ Years 16.8*
Mother Tongue is English 25.9
Mother Tongue is French 21.5
Mother Tongue is a Language Other than English or French 12.0*
Canadian-born 24.5
Immigrant 12.6*

Youth Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol Consumption in the Past Year

In Ottawa:

  • In 2017, 36% of students in Grades 7 to 12 reported using alcohol in the past year (excluding those who had a sip to try it), which is similar to students in the rest of Ontario (42%). [6]
  • Past year alcohol use increases by grade: 10%* of Grade 7 to 8 students, 34% of Grade 9 to 10 students and 59% of Grade 11 to 12 students reported using alcohol in the past year. [6]
  • Past year alcohol use among Grade 7 to 12 students has decreased from 57% in 2009 to 36% in 2017. [6]
  • Past year alcohol use among both Grade 7 to 8 and Grade 9 to 12 students was down from 2009 (Grades 7 to 8: 27% in 2009 to 10% in 2017; Grades 9 to 12: 70% in 2009 to 48% in 2017). [6]

First Use of Alcohol

  • Among Grade 9 to 12 Ottawa students in 2017, 23% reported using alcohol before Grade 9. [6]

Drunkenness and Binge Drinking

In Ottawa:

  • In 2017, almost one in six (15%*) Grade 9 to 12 students reported getting drunk (i.e., had so much to drink that they could not do what they wanted to do or threw up) in the past four weeks. [6]
  • 17%* of Grade 9 to 12 students reported binge drinking (5 or more drinks on one occasion) in the past four weeks. [6]

Alcohol and Cannabis Co-use

  • In 2017, 18%* of Grade 9 to 12 Ottawa students reported using alcohol and cannabis at the same time in the past year. [6]

Harmful/Hazardous Drinking

In Ottawa:

  • In 2017, one in ten (10%*) Grade 9 to 12 students reported drinking at a hazardous or harmful level, as determined by the AUDIT screen. [6]
  • Among Grade 9 to 12 students that had consumed alcohol in the past year, one in five (20%*) reported drinking at hazardous or harmful levels. [6]

Acute and Chronic Health Effects of Alcohol on Individuals

Alcohol-related health effects can be classified as acute or chronic:

  • Acute health effects are short-term such as alcohol poisoning (intoxication) and injuries.
  • Long-term alcohol use can lead to chronic health effects such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, digestive problems, diabetes, mental health problems, cancer, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. [7,8] Most long-term health effects of alcohol use are related to the amount consumed. Mental illness and alcohol consumption are linked. Alcohol is a major risk factor for several mental illnesses; however, some mental illnesses precede heavy drinking. [9]

See pages 20 to 30 of the Status of Alcohol in Ottawa: Let’s Continue the Conversation, 2016 [PDF 7.7 MB] report for local data on acute and chronic health effects of alcohol on the individual.

Alcohol Use Reports

Status of Alcohol in Ottawa: Let's Continue the Conversation, 2016

This report blends local epidemiological data on drinking and alcohol-related harms with local perspectives from the 2016 online "Have Your Say" alcohol survey in order to provide a complete picture of how alcohol affects our community.

Status of Alcohol in Ottawa: Let's Continue the Conversation, 2016 [PDF 7.7 MB]

Ottawa Student Drug Use and Health Report, 2014

The Ottawa Student Drug Use and Health Report 2014 offers a snapshot of health risk behaviours among youth in Ottawa using data from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS).

Full report [PDF 875 KB]

Infographics:

Substance Misuse in Ottawa, 2013

This report focuses on the prevalence of substance use and the attributed burden of mental health, addictions, injury and chronic disease in Ottawa. It is meant to inform an evidence-based dialogue in our community to foster effective health prevention, promotion and interventions related to substance misuse.

Substance Misuse in Ottawa Report [PDF 887 KB.]

References

References

  1. Ottawa Public Health. Problematic Substance Use in Ottawa: Technical Report. Ottawa, Ontario; 2016.

  2. Rehm J, Mathers C, Popova S, Thavorncharoensap M, Teerawattananon Y, Patra J. Global burden of disease and injury and economic cost attributable to alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders. Lancet. 2009;373(9682):2223-33.

  3. World Health Organization. Global status report on alcohol and health 2014. Geneva; 2014.

  4. Ottawa Public Health. Canadian Community Health Survey Ontario Share File 2015-2016. Statistics Canada. 

  5. Ottawa Public Health. Status of Alcohol in Ottawa: Let's Continue the Conversation. Ottawa, Ontario; 2016.

  6. Ottawa Public Health. Public Health Monitoring of Risk Factors in Ontario – Ontario Student Druge Use and Health Survey (2017), Centre for Addictions and Mental Health.
  7. Public Health Agency of Canada. The Chief Health Officer's Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2015. Alcohol Consumption in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario 2016.

  8. Butt P, Beirness, G, Gliksman, L, Paradis, C, Stockwell, T. Alcohol and health in Canada: A summary of evidence and guidelines for low-risk drinking. An independent report prepared for the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee and the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, Ottawa, Canada. 2010.

  9. Patel V, Flisher AJ, Hetrick S, McGorry P. Mental health of young people: a global public-health challenge. Lancet. 2007;369(9569):1302-13.

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