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The Health Behaviors of Immigrants and Native-born People in Canada

  • James Ted McDonald

This paper analyzes the incidence of participation in various activities generally expected to have an impact on current and future physical health. Attention is focused on the incidence of these activities among immigrant and minority groups compared to native-born white Canadians. Immigrants generally exhibit significantly lower rates of alcohol consumption, binge drinking, and daily smoking but also lower participation in vigorous physical activity and consumption of fruit and vegetables. Differences are particularly pronounced for immigrants from Asia and Africa, and this is true for both men and women. For most immigrant men, alcohol consumption and smoking both increase with years in Canada, ceteris paribus, and in the case of immigrants from Europe and the USA, reach native-born white levels after between 10-20 years in Canada. For other immigrant men, the incidence of alcohol consumption remains low even for long-term residents of Canada. Interestingly, there is no significant change with years-since-migration in any of the health behaviors for immigrant women. Canadian born members of visible minorities also display significantly lower rates of alcohol consumption, smoking and (for women) vigorous physical activity than native-born whites, although these rates were still higher than for immigrants from Asia and Africa. Finally, native- born white lifestyle choices are found to exert a significant positive influence on the behaviors of immigrants and native-born minorities who are residents of the same province.

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Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers with number 144.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:144
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  1. Bruce Newbold, K., 2005. "Self-rated health within the Canadian immigrant population: risk and the healthy immigrant effect," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(6), pages 1359-1370, March.
  2. Guillermina Jasso & Douglas S. Massey & Mark R. Rosenzweig & James P. Smith, 2004. "Immigrant Health--Selectivity and Acculturation," Labor and Demography 0412002, EconWPA.
  3. McDonald, James Ted & Kennedy, Steven, 2004. "Insights into the 'healthy immigrant effect': health status and health service use of immigrants to Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(8), pages 1613-1627, October.
  4. Deri, Catherine, 2005. "Social networks and health service utilization," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 1076-1107, November.
  5. James Ted McDonald & Steven Kennedy, 2005. "Ethnicity, Immigration and Cancer Screening: Evidence for Canadian Women," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 145, McMaster University.
  6. Salant, Talya & Lauderdale, Diane S., 2003. "Measuring culture: a critical review of acculturation and health in Asian immigrant populations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 71-90, July.
  7. Heather Antecol & Kelly Bedard, 2006. "Unhealthy assimilation: Why do immigrants converge to American health status levels?," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 337-360, May.
  8. Nicholas Biddle & Steven Kennedy & James Ted Mcdonald, 2007. "Health Assimilation Patterns Amongst Australian Immigrants," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(260), pages 16-30, 03.
  9. Sandra L. Decker & Dahlia K. Remler, 2004. "How Much Might Universal Health Insurance Reduce Socioeconomic Disparities in Health? A Comparison of the US and Canada," NBER Working Papers 10715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Mireille Laroche, 2000. "Health Status and Health Services Utilization of Canada's Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Populations," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 26(1), pages 51-75, March.
  11. McDonald, James Ted & Kennedy, Steven, 2005. "Is migration to Canada associated with unhealthy weight gain? Overweight and obesity among Canada's immigrants," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(12), pages 2469-2481, December.
  12. Sandra L. Decker & Dahlia K. Remler, 2004. "How Much Might Universal Health Insurance Reduce Socioeconomic Disparities in Health?: A Comparison of the US and Canada," Applied Health Economics and Health Policy, Springer Healthcare | Adis, vol. 3(4), pages 205-216.
  13. 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.
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