Immigrant health, place effect and regional disparities in Canada

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Dec;98:8-17. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.08.040. Epub 2013 Sep 8.


The paper addresses a critically important area in Canadian immigration and health from both a social and a spatial perspective. It employs multilevel and contextual approaches to examine the social determinants of immigrant health as well as the place effects on self-reported health at a regional and neighborhood scale. The data come from the raw microdata file of the 2005-10 Canadian Community Health Survey (a random national health survey) and the publicly available Canadian Marginalization index based on the 2006 Census. Three populations are compared: Canadian-born, overall foreign-born, and Chinese immigrants. The results suggest various degrees of association between self-reported health, individual and lifestyle behavioral characteristics, and neighborhood material deprivation and ethnic concentration in census tracts. These factors contribute differently to the reported health of Chinese immigrants, Canada's largest recent immigrant group. A healthy immigrant effect is partially evident in the overall foreign-born population, but appears to be relatively weak in Chinese immigrants. For all groups, neighborhood deprivation moderately increases the likelihood of reporting poor health. Ethnic concentration negatively affects self-rated health, with the exception of the slight protective effect of Chinese-specific ethnic density in census tracts. The multilevel models reveal significant area inequalities across Census Metropolitan Areas/Census Agglomerations in risk of reporting unhealthy status, with greater magnitude in the foreign-born population. The vast regional variations in health among Chinese immigrants should be interpreted carefully due to the group's heavy concentration in large cities. The study contributes to the literature on ethnicity and health by systematically incorporating neighborhood contextual effects in modeling the social determinants of immigrant health status. It fills a gap in the literature on neighborhoods and health by focusing on ethnically disparate groups rather than on the general population. By revealing regional disparities in health, the paper adds a spatial perspective to the work on immigrant health.

Keywords: Canada; Chinese immigrants; Immigrant health; Multilevel model; Regional variation; Self-reported health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Censuses
  • China / ethnology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult