Mental illness among Canadian immigrant students: Reports from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS)

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.Sc.
Date created
Author: Issa, Salah
Background: The main cohort of Canadian-born students entering postsecondary education has decreased over the last decade due to Canada's low birth rate [1] while Canada's international student population has grown six-fold over the past 20 years [2]. This shifting demographics might impact Canadian institutions of higher education as more immigrant students pursue their education in Canada [3]. At the same time, the prevalence of mental illness among postsecondary institutions has been skyrocketing [4]. There is limited Canadian research on the mental illness of students, particularly that of immigrant students. This study bridges the gap using data from Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS). Objective: The objective of this study is to estimate the prevalence of self-reported mental illness (SRMI) among Canadian immigrant students as compared to their Canadian-born counterparts, and to identify risk factors of SRMI focusing on mood- and anxiety- disorders. Results: Overall prevalence of SRMI among students was 16% (18% and 7% for Canadian-born- and immigrant- students, respectively). However, Canadian-born students have reported more than double SRMI than that of immigrant students including that of self-reported mood- and anxiety- disorder. Overall, older, female, single, and economically less fortunate students were the most likely to have SRMI. Stressful life, smoking, and drinking alcohol were associated with increased odds of having SRMI, mainly for Canadian-born students. A weaker sense of belonging to their local community was also associated with a significant increase in the odds of having SRMI while consulting mental health professionals had a significant protective effect against having SRMI. Conclusion: SRMI was more prevalent among Canadian-born- compared to immigrant- students. Socio-economic characteristics and health behaviours, including the sense of belonging to the local community have significantly influenced the odds of having SRMI while consulting mental health professionals has shown a significant protective effect against having SRMI. Recommendation: Promoting a culture of wellness that prioritizes healthy habits, forging a sound funding and work-study program that reduces students' financial burden, and improving access to mental health counselling services might produce a better mental health outcome.
60 pages.
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Thesis advisor: McCandless, Lawrence
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