Substance use among men and women across Canada – implications for primary prevention of cancer

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rachel Murphy

Affiliation: University of British Columbia

Start Year: 2023

This project is being led by Truman Wood, a Master’s student at the University of British Columbia.

Alcohol and cigarette use are both associated with the development of many health conditions, including cancer and heart disease. While research on cannabis and e-cigarette use and health is limited, largely due to their novel legal status in Canada, use of these substances has been described as an emerging risk factor for adverse health conditions. Studies outside of Canada have identified that an individual’s neighbourhood environment can influence health and behaviours, including substance use. Research has also seen that individual factors, such as stress and sleep, are associated with use of substances such as alcohol and tobacco. However, there is a lack of research on how neighbourhood-level and individual factors are associated with substance use in Canada. Our study aims to enhance our understanding of risk factors for the use of alcohol, cigarettes, cannabis, and e-cigarettes in Canada which is uniquely possible due to the detailed neighbourhood-level and individual data captured in CanPath. We plan to study how living in an economically disadvantaged, socially disadvantaged, or gentrifying neighbourhood is associated with substance use. For cigarette and e-cigarette use, we will study how proximity to convenience stores is associated with use. We will also examine differences in substance use between urban- and rural-living. On an individual-level, we plan to study how stress, feeling depressed, and sleep quality are associated with substance use. To complete these objectives, we will leverage data from the first CanPath follow-up questionnaire to build models that will allow us to examine how the aforementioned factors are associated with alcohol, cigarette, cannabis, and e-cigarette use. This study will allow the identification of potential risk factors for substance use that have not yet been studied in a Canadian-context and generate findings relevant to a large number of Canadians. These findings may help inform prevention, resource planning, and policy efforts around substance use in Canada, with ultimate implications for the prevention of many health conditions.