February 13, 2014—Young children were the most frequent visitors to Canada’s emergency departments (EDs) in 2012–2013, followed closely by young adults, according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Overall, children under age 5 accounted for 8.7% of total visits to EDs across Canada. Adults age 20 to 24 were the next most frequent visitors, accounting for 7.6% of total ED visits. In comparison, adults age 65 to 69 accounted for just 4.5% of ED visits.

The data, available to the public through CIHI’s Quick Stats initiative, provides insight into who is using the ED as well as information on the amount of time Canadians spent in EDs.


  • Half of all Canadians who visited an ED spent 2.4 hours or less there—from the time they registered until the time they left the ED. Nine out of 10 patients spent 7.4 hours or less.
  • Canadians who spent more than 7.4 hours in the ED usually did so because they had a condition that was serious enough to require being admitted to hospital. Half of these patients were in the ED for 8.8 hours or longer.
  • The amount of time patients spend in the ED has remained relatively stable in recent years.
  • ED visits in large and teaching hospitals are often longer than those in small and medium-sized hospitals, in part because these EDs tend to treat a higher number of complex cases. 

This information is based on available data covering more than half of the ED visits in Canada, including all of those in Ontario, Alberta and Yukon.

“The length of time people spend in an emergency department depends on a number of factors, including the severity, complexity and urgency of their condition. Whether they need to be admitted to the hospital, the number of patients waiting for a bed and whether an inpatient bed is readily available also play a part. Our data provides information on ED visit times by triage level for both admitted and non-admitted patients.”

– Greg Webster, Director of Acute and Ambulatory Care Information Services, CIHI

More information on ED visits can also be accessed in Quick Stats by selecting Type > Interactive Data and Topic > Hospital Care, then selecting the NACRS statistics.