Examining the relationship between social support availability, urban center size, and self-perceived mental health of recent immigrants to Canada: A mixed-methods analysis
Chadwick, Kathryn; Collins, Patricia A. (2015)
The experiences of settlement in a new country (e.g., securing housing and employment, language barriers) pose numerous challenges for recent immigrants that can impede their health and well-being. Lack of social support upon arrival and during settlement may help to explain why immigrant mental health status declines over time. While most urban centers in Canada offer some settlement services, little is known about how the availability of social supports, and the health statuses of recent immigrants, varies by city size. The objective of this mixed-methods study was to examine the relationship between self-perceived mental health (SPMH), social support availability, and urban center size, for recent immigrants to Canada. The quantitative component involved analysis of 2009–2010 Canadian Community Health Survey data, selecting for only recent immigrants and for those living in either large or small urban centers. The qualitative component involved in-depth interviews with managers of settlement service organizations located in three large and three small urban centers in Canada. The quantitative analysis revealed that social support availability is positively associated with higher SPMH status, and is higher in small urban centers. In support of these findings, our interviews revealed that settlement service organizations operating in small urban centers offer more intensive social supports; interviewees attributed this difference to personal relationships in small cities, and the ease with which they can connect to other agencies to provide clients with necessary supports. Logistic regression analysis revealed, however, that recent immigrants in small urban centers are twice as likely to report low SPMH compared to those living in large urban centers. Thus, while the scope and nature of settlements services appears to vary by city size in Canada, more research is needed to understand what effect settlement services have on the health status of recent immigrants to Canada, especially in smaller urban centers.