Life expectancy in Quebec returns to pre-pandemic levels: ISQ

But overdose-related deaths in young adults are now higher than car accidents.

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Quebec experienced a three per cent drop in the number of births between 2022 and 2023, according to data released Wednesday by the Quebec Institute of Statistics. This brings births to their lowest level since 2005.

The ISQ estimates that 77,950 babies will be born in Quebec in 2023, compared to 88,900 in 2013.

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The other Canadian provinces have not yet released their data on last year’s births, but ISQ demographer Frédéric Fleury-Payeur expects a decline to occur as well.

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“We see a decline almost everywhere on Earth,” he said.

The causes of the decline include difficulty accessing housing, a reduced desire to give birth for personal or environmental reasons, and difficulty forming stable unions.

The total fertility rate fell again to 1.38 children per woman in 2023, one of the lowest fertility rates in the history of Quebec.

“We are at the second lowest level ever recorded in Quebec, after the 1.36 we observed in 1987,” he said.

Quebec’s fertility rate remains higher than most other provinces.

In recent years, a maximum of 1.73 children per woman was reached in 2008 and 2009, but since then the trend has been downward, with the exception of the increase in 2021, caused by Quebecers postponing having a child due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the highlights of the demographic report, 37 per cent of babies born in Quebec in the last year have at least one parent born in another country, up from 21 per cent in 2000 and 33 per cent in 2019.

Generally, more children are born in summer than in any other season of the year, with winter being the slowest period. September is once again the month with the highest number of births, 227 per day.

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Overdose deaths increase

While life expectancy in Quebec has returned to pre-pandemic levels, drug overdoses are the main cause of the increase in deaths among people aged 25 to 44 between 2020 and 2023, the ISQ reports. Overdose-related deaths in this age group are now higher than car accidents, as well as homicides or femicides.

This increase has been gradual, Fleury-Payeur said.

“We have been talking about the overdose crisis for several years, especially those related to opioids, but it has intensified in recent years.”

Fleury-Payeur said suicide accounts for a higher proportion of deaths among people ages 25 to 44, but suicide has seen a year-over-year decline since the 2000s.

Mortality growth among people aged 25 to 44 is less strong in Quebec than in the rest of Canada or the United States.

The provisional estimate of the total number of deaths that occurred in Quebec in 2023 is 77,550, which represents a drop of one per cent compared to 2022.

This brings the life expectancy of the Quebec population back to what was observed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

By 2023, women could expect to live up to 84.3 years and men up to 80.7 years. Life expectancy has stagnated in Quebec since 2016, but remains among the highest in the world.

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“If mortality linked to COVID-19 disappears, and it is very possible that it will continue to decrease in the coming years, will we see an upward trend in life expectancy? It is something that is possible,” said Fleury-Payeur.

Among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, Japan has the best life expectancy, at 84.1 years in 2022 (men and women combined).

Cancer and cardiovascular diseases remain the leading causes of death in Quebec and will account for half of deaths in 2023.

Between 2020 and 2023, about 19,400 deaths were attributed to COVID-19, representing about 6.5 percent of total deaths during this period. The ISQ estimates excess deaths of 5.3 percent, or 14,500 more deaths than would normally be expected, taking into account the aging population.

Quebec’s excess mortality due to COVID-19 is among the lowest since the start of the pandemic compared to other countries with a similar quality of life.

The Canadian Press health coverage is funded through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

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