Immigrant, refugee, ethnocultural and racialized populations and the social determinants of health: A review of 2016 census data

AUTHORS    Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Aamna Ashraf, Andrew Tuck, Lara di Tomasso, Lisa Thompson and Bonita Varga

LOCATION   National


This report discusses select sociodemographic trends and issues related to Immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized (IRER) populations’ mental health and well-being, identified from 2016 Census Data. It highlights a number of key social determinants that influence mental health, including language, income, education, unemployment and underemployment, discrimination, and hate crimes. The data shows that immigrants experience a range of equity-related issues after settling in Canada — with many having an impact on health outcomes — and it speaks to an increasingly urgent need for action.

How does this research apply to my work?

To support the physical and mental health of all newcomers, it is essential for service providers and organizations to recognize the social determinants of health, to focus on mental health promotion and illness prevention, and to commit to developing responsive, safe and accessible services.

Given that immigrants are a growing part of the Canadian population, health and social service decision makers should consider these findings as they develop strategies to increase access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

What should I take away from this research?

  • Data shows that immigrants experience a range of equity-related issues after settling in Canada, with many having an impact on outcomes related to health and well-being.
  • In many cases, there is a disconnection between mainstream mental health care and the values, expectations and patterns of immigrant and refugee populations.
  • Early intervention improves outcomes and can reduce costs. Addressing the mental health needs of IRER populations can result in cost savings for the health care system and the economy as a whole.
  • For information on specific social determinants of health for IRER populations, please see the full report.

What’s the next step?

Moving forward:

  1. The authors highlight the need for collecting sociodemographic data at the point of accessing services.
  2. The authors plan to review government policies to identify what steps they are taking to improve IRER populations’ experiences.
  3. To support evidence-informed decision-making, the report speaks to the need for more research that explores the distinct needs within immigrant and racialized populations and how these relate to mental health and health outcomes.

Read the report here.

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