Marginalized residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are dying at more than eight times the national average, and treatable conditions are the greatest risk factors for mortality, researchers at the University of British Columbia have found.
In research outlined in the British Medical Journal Open, investigators recruited 371 study participants aged 23 to 72 from single room occupancy hotels and the Downtown Community Court. Over the course of nearly four years, 31 participants died—a mortality rate 8.29 times the average for Canadians of the same age and sex. For participants between the ages of 20 to 59, the mortality rates were even more astounding: more than 10 times the national rate.
When the researchers looked into the associated risk factors for mortality, they did not find any link with HIV or substance addiction. Instead, they found psychosis and hepatitis C-related liver dysfunction to be significantly associated with increased mortality, particularly among participants under the age of 55.
“We were somewhat surprised because most people thinking about the Downtown Eastside think about HIV/AIDS or the possibility of overdosing on opioids like heroin,” said Dr. William Honer, professor and head of UBC’s Department of Psychiatry and co-author of the study. “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.”