Insights into the 'healthy immigrant effect': health status and health service use of immigrants to Canada

Soc Sci Med. 2004 Oct;59(8):1613-27. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.02.004.


This paper combines multiple cross-sections of data drawn from the National Population Health Survey and Canadian Community Health Survey to confirm the existence of the 'healthy immigrant effect', specifically that immigrants are in relatively better health on arrival in Canada compared to native-born Canadians, and that immigrant health converges with years in Canada to native-born levels. The paper finds robust evidence that the healthy immigrant effect is present for the incidence of chronic conditions for both men and women, and results in relatively slow convergence to native-born levels. There is only weak evidence in terms of self-assessed health status. The inclusion of controls for region of origin and year of arrival does not account for the observed effects, although region of origin is an important determinants of immigrant health. The paper then considers some alternative explanations for the observed differences, and support is found for the idea that the healthy immigrant effect reflects convergence in physical health rather than convergence in screening and detection of existing health problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Empirical Research
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans