Statistics Canada has released data showing life expectancy stopped increasing for the first time in four decades as young men and women died at higher rates, mostly due to opioid-related overdoses in British Columbia, followed by Alberta.
The agency says life expectancy did not go up from 2016 to 2017 for either men or women after an upward trend from the mid-1990s to 2012, but overall gains then started to stall, even as older Canadians lived longer.
It says the declines were most notable in British Columbia, where life expectancy fell in 2017 for the second year in a row, especially for young men between the ages of 20 and 44.
StatsCan says that while older men are living longer from factors including improved cancer outcomes, drug-related deaths of young men almost completely offset those gains while a similar pattern emerged among young women, but to a lesser extent.
The agency says death rates due to overdose were 2.1 times higher for men and 1.6 times higher for women in 2017 compared with 2015 but those are likely underestimates because the cause of death in some cases has not yet been determined due to ongoing investigations.
Statistics Canada says 4,108 overdose deaths were recorded in Canada in 2017, and nearly 1,100 of those involved people between the ages of 30 and 39.