Jan 24, 2013 – 9:13 AM
A new report by Peel Public Health suggests the more ‘Canadian’ immigrants become the less healthy they are.
“The longer people stay in Canada the more unhealthy they become,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Associate Medical Officer of Health. “
Titled Destination Peel, the report tracks personal behaviours and “other determinates of health” such as socio-economic factors of recent Canadian immigrants in Peel.
The study reveals immigrants are generally healthier than the Canadian-born population when they first arrive.
Compared to the native-born population, fewer newcomers smoke or consume alcohol, and eat a lot more vegetables.
However, the longer immigrants reside here, the more their health “approaches that of the native-born population”
Over time, new Canadians tend to pick up the bad habits of the general population, including a more ‘Western’ diet and couch-potato lifestyle.
As such, the risk of obesity increases the longer immigrants reside in Canada, according to the study, putting them at greater risk of developing other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity varies by immigrant status and by ethnicity, the report notes.
“The numbers are startling when you look at them,” de Villa said. “The percentages of the population aged 18 and older who are overweight and obese are not good. They are quite high.”
Sixty per cent of Peel’s population is overweight or obese.
In Peel, 55 per cent of the Canadian-born individuals say they engage in regular exercise, compared to just 39 per cent of recent immigrants and 37 per cent of long-term immigrants.
Approximately 10 per cent of Peel’s population (1.3 million) has diabetes.
Diabetes is more prevalent among Peel’s immigrants compared to its Canadian-born population and, the report states, “is of particular concern among immigrants from South Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.”
Public health officials say understanding this data is crucial given that half of Peel’s current population was born outside of Canada.
“We believe the first step to enable us to positively influence these factors is a more in-depth understanding of these issues,” said Dr. David Mowat, Peel’s medical officer of health.
Mowat said greater effort needs to be put into educating residents and encouraging them to get healthy. He argue a good way to ensure newcomers maintain healthy lifestyles is for native-born people to set a better example.
The public health department says it will strive to collect data on an ongoing basis in order to assess and monitor the health status of Peel’s population.