BC’s alcohol consumption down

Dec 26, 2019

Results of a new study carried out by the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) at the University of Victoria show that alcohol consumption in B.C. has decreased. Although alcohol consumption in the province had been increasing since 2013, the latest data released by the institute show a decrease in per-capita consumption of alcohol, from 9.44 litres of absolute ethanol consumed over the period of 2017-2018 to 9.35 litres found to be consumed over 2018-2019.

Dr. Tim Stockwell, the director of the institute, told Vancouver Sun that this dip in alcohol consumption can be attributed to liquor reforms and the current state of economy.

“There was a relative increase in B.C.’s population, but that would only explain the reduction if the increase involved groups who drank less, such as older people or people from regions in the world that tend to consume less alcohol… I see it more as a levelling off of the impacts of the liquor reforms that began to be introduced in early 2014 and perhaps a slight slowing of the economy,”

Dr. Tim Stockwell, Director of Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research

Notably, British Columbia residents still drink more than most Canadians. According to data released by Statistics Canada, Canadians in 2018 drank 8.2 litres of absolute alcohol per person over the age of 15. In addition, approximately 19.1% of Canadians reported heavy drinking at least once in the past month.

Moreover, other new research from the University of Victoria published in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research shows that the average Canadian alcohol drinker gets more than 10% of their daily calories from alcohol consumption. Dr. Adam Sherk, the post-doctoral researcher and principal investigator of the study, said that the average Canadian drinker consumes 250 calories, or 11% of their daily estimated energy requirements, through alcohol.

Interestingly, despite the popularity of craft breweries in the province, British Columbia residents do not consume as much beer as the rest of the country, with data from Statistics Canada showing that beer accounted for 34% of total alcohol sales in B.C. over 2017-2018. In contrast, in the rest of Canada, beer accounted for approximately 40% of all liquor sales.

Earlier in 2018, CISUR had reported increased alcohol consumption on Vancouver Island, showing that the island’s residents aged 16 and older consumed an average of 11.5 litres of absolute alcohol in 2016, which equates to 667 standard drinks per year or 12.8 standard drinks weekly. Moreover, according to these data, hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption on Vancouver Island had increased, at that point, 35% since 2002.

According to Tim Stockwell, relaxed liquor regulations in 2014 contributed to the increase in alcohol consumption. “After the liquor reforms kicked in in 2014, we had two [years] of the largest increase in per capita consumption,” he said. “It was a big initiative and they were keen to create favourable marketing conditions for B.C. winegrowers, craft brewers, distillers. All local manufacturers and retailers.”