Dr. William Honer: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents dying at 8 times the national average

vancouver-downtown-eastside-srosA new SFU study finds many in the Downtown Eastside migrated to the troubled neighbourhood from elsewhere. (Sean Marshall/UBC)

By with files from Stephanie Mercier, CBC News

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which is often associated with despair, poverty and addiction, now has a grim new claim to fame.

According to a study conducted by UBC, marginalized residents of one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods, are dying at a rate more than eight times the national average.
Study co-author Dr. William Honer says researchers were surprised to discover that psychosis and Hepatitis C-related liver dysfunction were the main factors leading to the higher death rate, not drug overdoses or HIV.

“Most people thinking about the Downtown Eastside think about HIV/AIDS or the possibility of overdosing on opioids like heroin,” said Horner, head of UBC’s Department of Psychiatry.
■UBC study published in British Medical Journal

“Our system is not doing as well in getting treatments out there for psychosis and Hepatitis C in this group, and it’s interesting that those two illnesses are causing risk for early mortality.”

Three hundred and seventy-one people living in single room occupancy hotels participated in the study which ran nearly four years.

During that period, 31 participants died, a rate 8.29 times the national average when adjusted for age and sex.

The study claims that two-thirds of participants living with HIV were receiving anti-retroviral treatment, while not a single person with active Hepatitis C was receiving treatment.

Only one third of the 173 participants diagnosed with psychosis were receiving treatment.

“Psychosis is an extremely prevalent issue among inner city populations,” said lead author Andrea Jones.

“We need to improve the detection and treatment of psychosis and Hepatitis C in marginalized people across Canada.”