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Can J Public Health. 2017 Nov 9;108(4):e362-e367. doi: 10.17269/cjph.108.6105.

Migration and social determinants of mental health: Results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey.

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Assistant Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.

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Studies worldwide point to increased risk of mental health problems among immigrants. However, the data on Canadian immigrants' mental health are ambiguous. To address this, we examined the relationship of both self-perceived mental health and reported diagnosis of mood disorders with age, gender, migration status, time since migration, and social determinants of health factors.


We analyzed three cycles of the Canadian Health Measures Survey. Our outcome variables were self-perceived mental health and reported diagnosis of mood disorders. We used weighted logistic regression to model time since migration conditional on age, gender, income, community belonging, education, and employment status for 12 160 participants aged 15-79 years.


Recent (within 5 years) migrants reported better self-perceived mental health (odds ratio 3.98, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.06-7.70) but this effect disappeared with longer time since immigration. Other predictors were older age, higher income, better sense of community belonging, and being employed. Similarly, diagnosis of mood disorders was less likely to be reported in recent migrants (odds ratio 0.23, 95% CI: 0.10-0.53) with some weak evidence that this was also seen among longer-term migrant residents (>10 years). Diagnosis was also associated with older age, being a woman, lower income, weak sense of community belonging, and being unemployed.


Our findings indicate that migrants to Canada do not have worse mental health in general, though health and social policies need to attend to the socio-economic determinants, such as low income, unemployment, and a poor sense of community belonging, which contribute to population health outcomes.

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