Drastic differences in life expectancy in across Metro Vancouver

The study found life expectancy was highest in West Vancouver, West Point Grey, northwest Richmond and some South Surrey and Coquitlam neighbourhoods, while it was lower in the Downtown Eastside and Maple Ridge Haney neighbourhoods.

Tiffany Crawford 3 minute read November 4, 2021

A new UBC-led study shows how much life expectancy varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver. RICHARD LAM / PNG

The life expectancy of Metro Vancouver residents can vary by nearly a decade depending on which neighbourhood they live in, according to startling new research from UBC.

A UBC-led study, published this week in Health and Place, found while overall life expectancy rate is high for the region, inequality between neighbourhoods has grown since 2001, and life expectancy can vary by as much as a decade.

It is the first study to examine life expectancy and causes of death by Metro Vancouver neighbourhood over a 27-year period.

Not surprising, the researchers found that the life span of Metro Vancouver residents is lowest in impoverished areas such as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Haney in Maple Ridge, where there’s a life expectancy of less than 75 years for both women and men. The research shows there are also neighbourhoods in the District of North Vancouver, New Westminster and Langley where the life expectancy is under 75 years for men

That’s significantly lower than Metro’s overall life expectancy rate, which at the 2016 census was 86.6 years for women and 82.5 years for men.

Researchers used StatsCan data to create an interactive data map that can be manipulated to show life expectancy and mortality rate by various causes of death at the census tract level over 27 years.




UBC notes that statistically residents of the Downtown Eastside have life expectancies that are comparable to the life span of residents in Indonesia (71.8 years) and Russia (73.2 years.)

Life expectancy is highest in Metro’s more upscale neighbourhoods in West Vancouver, West Point Grey, northwest Richmond and parts of South Surrey and Coquitlam, according to the study.

So who is living the longest? Women with a life expectancy of more than 90 years living in pockets of Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond, Tsawwassen, Coquitlam, and part of South Surrey. Interestingly, there were no neighbourhoods where overall more men are living past 90.

Jessica Yu, a doctoral candidate at UBC’s school of population and public health who was lead author of the study, said the data show the actual inequality that occurs within the city and where it occurs.

“We are seeing high inequality within a city that has a relatively high life expectancy overall,” she said, in a statement released Thursday by UBC.

Cancers, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases are the biggest drivers of disparities between neighbourhoods, according to the study, which uses data from 1990 to 2016 and may not reflect the massive death toll from Metro Vancouver’s opioid crisis.

To measure how inequality has changed over time, the researchers compared the gap in life expectancy and found it shrank between 1990 and 2001 but then reversed direction and grew for the final 16 years of the study period.

The study doesn’t reveal why these inequalities have grown since 2001, but Yu said some census tracts have more services, more green space and more transit access than others.


More to come…