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The health of homeless immigrants

Abstract

Background: This study examined the association between immigrant status and current health in a representative sample of 1189 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 programmes (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) than 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 SD 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 from other homeless people.

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