The relationship between residential school attendance and health status in later life among First Nation elders in B.C.

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (Masters)
Date created: 
First Nations
First Nation elders
Residential Schools
Health status
Health outcomes
British Columbia

This project provides an exploratory examination of the relationship between residential school attendance and health status in later life among First Nation Elders in B.C. The sample population (n = 539) was obtained from regional data collected during the First Nation and Inuit Regional Health Survey in 1997. It is hypothesized that attendance at a residential school will result in negative health outcomes in later life. In addition, a further hypothesis is that there will be familial effects of attendance at the residential school system.

To date, most research into the impact of residential school experiences have been of a qualitative nature that focuses primarily on the inter-generational, psycho-social effects of the system. This project is an attempt to fill in the existing gaps in the literature, specifically in relation to the quantitative perspective. A theoretical framework, which draws upon aspects from the Life Course Theory and Population Health perspective, is used to examine the relationship between residential school attendance and health status in later life.

In order to test the two hypotheses, five main dependent variables are investigated in the analyses. They are "tuberculosis", "high blood pressure", "heart problems", "perceived health", and an additive "illness scale". Four residential school variables were used in the analyses: "did you attend", "years attended", "brother attended" and "sister attended" along with five sociodemographic covariates. A bivariate analysis was conducted with the five dependent variables, the residential school variables and the socio-demographic variables (see page 51 for a summary). Support was not found for hypothesis iiione at the bivariate level, however, there was partial support for hypothesis two, which states that there will be familial effects of residential school attendance. The two hypotheses were further tested at the multivariate level using a logistic regression and linear regression analysis. Ten hierarchical models were tested in the multivariate analyses. The multivariate analyses reveal a positive relationship between health status and residential school attendance (see page 55 for summary). "Years attended" residential school was found to be positively associated with "tuberculosis" yet negatively associated with "heart problems". The independent variable "brother attended" residential school was a predictor for "tuberculosis", "high blood pressure and for the additive "illness scale" variable.

In summary, there was partial support for an association between the residential school experience occurring in early life and the health status of First Nation people in later life. Stronger analyses are found for familial effects on health through the attendance of siblings. These findings support a life course - developmental perspective. However, the limitations of this study and preliminary nature of this initial analysis of these residential school data suggest that further work is needed before final conclusions as to the causal relationship between health status and residential school attendance can be ascertained. Gerontological research must include additional research and theoretical development that encompasses all of the unique aspects of First Nation health and aging, including the residential school experience.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
Copyright remains with the author.
Subject headings: 
Indians of North America -- Health and hygiene -- British Columbia.
Indians of North America -- British Columbia -- Residential schools.
Senior supervisor: 
Andrew Wister
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Gerontology
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.A.