Homeless recent immigrants are healthier than other homeless individuals

Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356

Recent arrivals to Canada who are homeless are generally healthy and less likely to suffer from chronic conditions, mental health problems, and alcohol/substance abuse compared with nonrecent immigrants and Canadian-born natives. They also tend to have better mental and physical health, according to a study of 1,189 homeless individuals in Toronto, Canada.

The researchers interviewed each homeless person to determine their demographic characteristics and information on various health conditions, including drug and alcohol abuse. Ten percent of this homeless group were recent immigrants, 22 percent nonrecent immigrants, and 68 percent Canadian-born.

Recent immigrants were not as likely to have mental health problems or symptoms of alcohol/drug abuse. The rate of mental health problems was 40 percent for Canadian-born, 35 percent for nonrecent immigrants, and 23 percent for recent immigrants. Compared with the two other groups, recent immigrants were found to have fewer chronic conditions and better physical health scores. Lack of financial resources and adequate housing were most often cited by recent immigrants as the chief reasons for being homeless. They were less likely to report mental health or addiction problems as reasons compared with the other two groups. According to the researchers, effective interventions designed to address the needs of this distinct group of homeless persons may revolve around their housing and financial needs. Interventions focusing on job skills, training, and employment may be especially beneficial. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS14129).

See "The health of homeless immigrants," by Shirley Chiu, M.A., Donald A. Redelmeier, M.D., M.S.H.S.R., George Tolomiczenko, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., and others in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 63, pp. 943-948, 2009.

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Page last reviewed April 2010
Internet Citation: Homeless recent immigrants are healthier than other homeless individuals: Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356. April 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/apr10/0410RA28.html