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Ethnicity and Health: An Analysis of Physical Health Differences across Twenty-one Ethnocultural Groups in Canada


  • Steven Prus
  • Zhiqiu Lin


The study of health differences across a wide-range of ethnic, racial, and cultural groups has received relatively little attention in the literature. Twenty-one ethnocultural groups are examined in the current study, providing one of the most comprehensive analyses to-date on ethnicity and physical health in Canada. Two specific research questions are addressed. First, what is the extent of ethnocultural-based health inequalities in Canada? Second, do ethnocultural differences in health reflect differences in social structural and health-related behavioural environments? These questions are analyzed using the master datafile of the 2000/2001 Canadian Community Health Survey (n=129,588). Three global measures of physical health are used: self-rated health, functional health, and activity restriction. The results show that certain ethnic and cultural groups experience higher health status compared to other ethnocultural groups. Social structural (i.e., socio-demographic and SES factors) and behavioural (alcohol and cigarette consumption, diet/nutrition, and exercise) control variables are also introduced to determine if these factors mediate the relationship between ethnicity/race and health. These findings show that health differences between ethnic and racial groups are partly attributable to structural and behavioural factors. They also show that the mediating effects of these variables vary across ethnocultural groups, and that social structural factors are generally more important than behavioural ones in explaining ethnocultural-based differences in health. The implications of the study findings for future research on ethnicity and health and for health care policies are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Prus & Zhiqiu Lin, 2005. "Ethnicity and Health: An Analysis of Physical Health Differences across Twenty-one Ethnocultural Groups in Canada," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 143, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:143

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    1. P Grootendorst & D Feeny & W Furlong, 1999. "Health Utilities Index Mark 3: Evidence of Construct Validity for Stroke and Arthritis in a Population Health Survey," Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis Working Paper Series 1999-06, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA), McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
    2. William J Furlong & David H. Feeny & George W. Torrance & Ronald D. Barr, 2001. "The Health Utilities Index (HUI®) System for Assessing Health-Related Quality of Life in Clinical Studies," Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis Working Paper Series 2001-02, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA), McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
    3. Dunn, James R. & Dyck, Isabel, 2000. "Social determinants of health in Canada's immigrant population: results from the National Population Health Survey," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(11), pages 1573-1593, December.
    4. Paul Grootendorst & David Feeney & W. Furlong, 1999. "Evidence of Construct Validity for Stoke and Arthritis in a Population Health Survey," Department of Economics Working Papers 1999-09, McMaster University.
    5. Meadows, Lynn M. & Thurston, Wilfreda E. & Melton, Christina, 2001. "Immigrant women's health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(9), pages 1451-1458, May.
    6. Bruce Newbold, K. & Danforth, Jeff, 2003. "Health status and Canada's immigrant population," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(10), pages 1981-1995, November.
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    More about this item


    ethnicity; race; self-rated health; functional health; social structure; lifestyle;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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