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The health of homeless immigrants
  1. Shirley Chiu1,
  2. Donald A Redelmeier2,
  3. George Tolomiczenko3,
  4. Alex Kiss4,
  5. Stephen W Hwang5
  1. 1 Centre for Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael's Hospital, Canada;
  2. 2 Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Canada;
  3. 3 Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada, Canada;
  4. 4 Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canada;
  5. 5 Centre for Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael's Hospital, and University of Toronto, Canada
  1. * Corresponding author; email: hwangs{at}smh.toronto.on.ca

Abstract

Background: This study examined the association between immigrant status and current health in a representative sample of 1,189 homeless people in Toronto, Canada.

Methods: Multivariate regression analyses were performed to examine the relationship between immigrant status and current health status (assessed using the SF-12) among homeless recent immigrants (≤10 years since immigration), non-recent immigrants (>10 years since immigration), and Canadian-born individuals recruited at shelters and meal programs (response rate 73%).

Results: After adjusting for demographic characteristics and lifetime duration of homelessness, recent immigrants were significantly less likely to have chronic conditions (RR 0.7, 95% CI 0.5 to 0.9), mental health problems (OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.2 to 0.7), alcohol problems (OR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.5), and drug problems (OR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.4) compared to non-recent immigrants and Canadian-born individuals. Recent immigrants were also more likely to have better mental health status (+3.4 points, SE ±1.6) and physical health status (+2.2 points, SE ±1.3) on scales with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10 in the general population.

Conclusion: Homeless recent immigrants are a distinct group who are generally healthier and may have very different service needs compared to other homeless people.

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