New report: Cannabis Mainly Attracts Older People for Health Reasons

Published: October 18, 2021

New report: Cannabis Mainly Attracts Older People for Health Reasons

A few days before the third anniversary of the legalization of cannabis, the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ) unveils a new report on cannabis consumption in Quebec which notably highlights highlight the importance of prevention among seniors

“In our research, participants aged 55 and over often mentioned feeling judgmental about their cannabis use and some even avoided talking to their loved ones. It is important that conversations about cannabis are broadened without age discrimination and that prevention messages relate to the reality of older people, because many issues related to aging and health need to be considered in order to make informed decisions about cannabis consumption ”, summarizes Sylvie Roy, cannabis project manager at ASPQ.

From fall 2019 to spring 2021, the ASPQ conducted a survey of more than 2,000 people aged 18 and over to better understand the perspective of people of different age groups who use cannabis on a regular basis or occasional or planning to do so. The report The consumption of cannabis and its spheres of influence in Quebec: perspective of current and potential consumers emerges.that older people stand out in some ways and increasingly turn to cannabis for health reasons. “Among those 55 and over, health reasons seem to predominate over the pursuit of pleasure. Relaxing or unwinding, sleeping better, reducing anxiety or stress and reducing physical pain are some of the main reasons mentioned for using cannabis, ”explains Ms. Roy.

In addition, for a few participants in this age group who had used cannabis in the past, legalization was the trigger to start using again in an environment that has changed considerably.

According to Statistics Canada data, cannabis use has increased more strongly among the elderly than in other age groups i . In 2019, more than a quarter of seniors who used cannabis were new users ii . This confirms the importance of paying specific attention to the perspective of seniors when it comes to cannabis to meet their needs and reduce its harms.

Cannabis contains different substances that can cause effects in humans. The two main ones are THC and CBD. THC is more related to the euphoric or ‘buzzing’ effect whereas CBD generally produces a calming effect. Cohabiting naturally in the cannabis plant, these products are now offered in isolation and in different concentrations, which opens the door to increasingly varied uses of cannabis.

So far, while some health benefits are possible, little research has shown cannabis to be effective in reducing physical pain, helping sleep better, or reducing anxiety. In addition, several factors can affect the effects or risks of cannabis use, including the way you consume it, take other medications or certain medical conditions, for example. Each person is also likely to react differently to these substances.

While waiting for more convincing evidence of benefits, the ASPQ urges caution before using cannabis as a self-care product. “Before using cannabis for a health problem, it is wise to consult a doctor or health care professional in order to make an informed decision for your situation and to assess the causes of the symptom you are experiencing. ‘we want to appease,’ suggests Ms. Roy. However, this good practice would not be a habit for the moment. Among the participants in our study who indicated that they self-medicate with cannabis, few would have discussed their consumption and their procedures with their doctor.

Smoking, vaping or ingesting cannabis products is not without risk. This can weaken mental faculties and lead to impaired concentration and memory as well as impaired motor skills and slower reaction time, which increase the risk of falls and injury iii iv . “The risk of a fall after cannabis use is of particular concern, as it can result in fractures and significant loss of autonomy in an elderly person. You have to consider it if you choose to consume, ”warns Sylvie Roy.


In light of this research, the ASPQ recommends:

  • Carry out awareness-raising and information actions targeting the consumption of cannabis among the elderly 
  • Provide more tools to cannabis professionals and physicians, in particular through training, and invite them to discuss cannabis consumption, like alcohol, in a clinical context.
  • Encourage the mainstream media to avoid incitement to consume or discover new products, as well as photos showcasing attractive packaging of cannabis products.

ASPQ’s work focused on the perspective of different age groups. Several new data on cannabis use among adults aged 18 and over therefore emanate from this project. Here are some additional observations:

  • 13% of regular users and 5% of occasional users have increased the frequency of their use following the legalization of cannabis.
  • 10% of current regular users and 13% of current occasional users have resumed using following the legalization of cannabis when they no longer do so.
  • 22% of regular consumers admitted to having a totally or partially problematic use (currently or in the past).
  • 1 in 5 regular users (19%) do not believe it is possible to become addicted to cannabis.

To learn more about cannabis use among young people, see also the press release entitled “Alcohol, a key factor in the initiation of cannabis among young people and in the increase in the risks associated with use”.

About the project
In order to better understand the point of view of Quebecers who consume or are interested in cannabis, this survey combined different sources of information. A web survey was first conducted among 2001 adults in collaboration with the firm Léger. The results of this survey were then further explored with 22 adults divided into three groups. Finally, 7 regular cannabis users aged 21 to 29 participated in individual interviews. For the detailed methodology and all the results, see the report and its summary .

About the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ)
The ASPQ brings together citizens and partners to make sustainable health a priority through prevention. It supports social and economic development by promoting a sustainable conception of health and well-being. Sustainable health is based on a long-term vision which, while providing care to all, also ensures that they are kept healthy through prevention. .

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