Health decline among recent immigrants to Canada: findings from a nationally-representative longitudinal survey
Authors: Esme Fuller-Thomson, Andrea M. Noack, and Usha George
Objective: The healthy immigrant effect suggests new immigrants to Canada enjoy better health, on average, than those born in Canada, yet cross-sectional data suggest that immigrants who have been in Canada for decades have comparable health to their native-born peers. We analyzed prospective cohort data to identify the factors associated with health decline among new immigrants. Methods: The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada was conducted by Statistics Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada between April 2001 and November 2005. A probability sample of 7,716 recent immigrants from abroad was interviewed three times: at six months, two years and four years after arrival in Canada. Logistic regression was used to model predictors of a two-step decline in self-reported health (e.g., from excellent to good or from very good to fair). Results: Among recent immigrants, 15% reported a two-step decline in health in the first four years after arrival in Canada. In comparison, only 6% of non-immigrants from a similar age cohort reported a two-step decline in health during the same time period. The characteristics associated with an increased likelihood of health decline among recent immigrants include initial health status, age, gender, marital status, language skills and place/region of birth. Experience of discrimination was also associated with health decline. One in four immigrants who experienced a health decline reported problems accessing Canadian health services. Conclusions: The process of immigration is associated with health decline for some recent immigrants. These findings support Health Canada’s identification of immigration as a determinant of health. Strategies need to be developed to improve access to health care among new immigrants.
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