Recent Immigrant Women Report Being Healthier Than Canadian-Born Women: New CPHI-funded study showsMonday, July 26 2010
A new study on women's health shows that the vast majority of women immigrants report good to excellent health for the two years following their arrival in Canada-but this sense of positive health diminishes over time. In 2000-2001, immigrant women who had been in Canada at least 10 years were 30% more likely to report fair or poor health than Canadian-born women-even after taking into account a variety of demographic, social and economic factors. In contrast, immigrant men who had been in Canada for at least 10 years were about as likely as Canadian-born men to report fair or poor health.
These findings appear as part of three new chapters of The Women's Health Surveillance Report, a report that was jointly funded by the Canadian Population Health Initiative and Health Canada and originally published in September 2003. This report features some of the latest research on women's health in Canada written by experts from across the country. These new chapters focus on three issues: ethnicity and immigration, health care utilization and the relationship between income and health.
"Migration to a new country can have a profound impact on a woman's health," says Bilkis Vissandjee, researcher at the School of Nursing Sciences, University of Montreal. "Immigrant women are often vulnerable to the stress that comes from meeting the basic needs of their families in a new country, learning a new language and the social isolation that comes from leaving family and friends behind."
The rate of reporting good to excellent health drops most notably for immigrant women in low-income households: 93% of recent female immigrants in low-income households rated their health as good to excellent, compared to a rate of 73% of immigrant women in low-income households who had resided in Canada 10 years or more, and 79% of Canadian-born women in low-income households. The fact that immigrants who have been in Canada for some time are more likely to self-assess their health negatively may be explained, in part, by the effects of aging. However, immigrants in higher-income households report good to excellent health at similar rates to Canadian-born individuals: 95% in the first two years of residency in Canada, and then 87% after living in Canada a decade or more-compared to 93% of Canadian-born women in high-income households.
"Learning how economic and social status relate to health helps us to understand why some groups of people are healthy and others are not," says Jennifer Zelmer, CIHI's Vice-President of Research and Analysis. "Increasing our knowledge of how migration influences health, for example, can give us important insights into how to improve the health of all Canadians."
OTHER KEY FINDINGS ON WOMEN'S HEALTH
- While most Canadians (88% in 2000-2001) reported having a regular medical doctor, there was variation between men and women: 16% of the men, versus 9% of the women, reported having no regular doctor. The reasons for not having a regular doctor differed between men and women.
- In 2001, average wait times for non-emergency MRIs, CT scans and angiographies were significantly higher for women than for men: 53 days for women compared to 31 days for men.
- Rural women aged 50 to 69 were slightly more likely to report having obtained a mammogram less than two years previously than urban women in 2000-2001. (Note: The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends a screening mammogram at least once every two years for women aged 50 to 69.)
- In contrast, urban women aged 18 years and older were more likely (60% compared to 56% of rural-based women) to report having had a Pap smear less than a year ago. (Note: The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends that Canadian women have an annual Pap test once they are sexually active, or over age 18. After two normal tests, screening frequency can be reduced to every three years, until the age of 69.)
- Adjusting for a variety of socio-economic variables, women homemakers were less likely to report chronic health conditions (such as diabetes or heart disease) than full-time employed women in 2000-2001-but, at the same time, they were more likely to report poorer self-perceived health.