Manitoba seeing higher proportion of youth mental health hospitalizations: report

New numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that Manitoba saw a higher proportion of youth mental health hospitalized during the pandemic compared to the years before.

“Particularly during the pandemic, we got a lot of questions around how kids are doing, what does substance use look like, what does mental health look like,” said Tracy Johnson, CIHI’s director of health system analytics.

“The ways that we can do that at CIHI are by looking at emergency department visits…as well as looking at hospitalizations.”

The data, which was released on Thursday, shows that in 2019, a total of 7,487 children and youth were hospitalized for all types of conditions, while 1,281 Manitoba youth were hospitalized for mental health disorders.

Then in 2020 during the pandemic, 6,540 were hospitalized for all disorders, and 1,162 children and youth were hospitalized for mental health disorders.

Though Manitoba did see a dip in the number of overall youth hospitalizations during the pandemic, the proportion of hospitalizations for mental health disorders increased from 17.1 per cent in 2019 to 17.7 per cent in 2020.

This trend aligns, though it was not as steep, with what was seen across all of Canada, where the number of youth hospitalizations dipped, but the proportion of mental health hospitalizations increased from 21 per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2020.

“We can see that about one in four kids [in Canada] who seek care at a hospital or who are admitted to the hospital are admitted for a mental health problem,” she said.

EATING DISORDER HOSPITALIZATIONS

The new data from CIHI also found that hospitalizations for eating disorders among girls aged 10 to 17 in Canada have increased by nearly 60 per cent since March 2020. It also determined that the rate of hospitalization for eating disorders for girls in this age group was 1.6 times higher in 2020 compared to 2019.

Johnson noted that studies suggest this spike in hospitalizations shows that Canadians struggled with their mental health during the pandemic.

“This appears to show us that something in particular happened with young women,” she said.

She added that clinicians are not entirely sure what the drivers of this spike are, but that they could include limited social interaction and activities, and an increase in social media activity.

“A disruption of the routines have done something,” she said.

Johnson added that the spike in eating disorder hospitalizations aligned with the waves of the pandemic.

As for Manitoba, Johnson said the province didn’t follow the national trend in terms of eating disorders, as hospitalizations have remained stable since the start of the pandemic.

“It didn’t change as much as it did in other provinces,” she said.

Johnson noted this may have to do with the fact that in the first part of the pandemic, Manitoba’s COVID-19 waves were not as severe as in other parts of the country, such as Quebec and Ontario.

DEMOGRAPHICS

CIHI found that hospitalizations for mental health disorders were more common among Canadian females than males, with females accounting for 58 per cent of the hospitalizations and males accounting for 42 per cent. Females aged 15 to 17 were two times more likely to be hospitalized than males of the same age.

CIHI’s report shows that 27 per cent of the youth hospitalized for all mental health conditions live in the least affluent neighbourhoods in their communities. However, 33 per cent of the children and youth hospitalized for eating disorders in particular live in the most affluent neighbourhoods in their community.

In Manitoba, 40 per cent of the youth hospitalized for mental health disorders were from the lowest-income neighbourhoods.

“Manitoba is mirroring the rest of Canada in that those with lower incomes suffer disproportionately for mental health challenges,” Johnson said.

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