Self-perceived mental health and its gendered and immigration associations

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Background: Many research designs have analyzed various socioeconomic factors that influence a person’s physical health, such as diabetes. Whether or not these same factors are associated with a person’s mental health have received less attention. Some studies indicate that gender disparities and the migration process may be associated with differential mental health outcomes. Objective: This research examines the relationship between gender, immigrant status, and self-perceived mental health (SPMH) in the Canadian population aged 18 and over. Method: The analysis draws on the latest available Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) public use microdata file, which captured information from a nationally representative sample of 58,574 adults. Multivariate logistic regression was used to explore interactions of gender and immigrant status on SPMH, controlling for a range of socioeconomic variables including education and income. Survey weights were applied to allow for generalization of the results to the Canadian population. Results: The relationships between gender, immigrant status, and SPMH were significant, with females more likely to report good SPMH than men (odds ratio=1.16, p<0.05), and immigrants more likely to report good SPMH than non-immigrants (odds ratio=1.05). Discussion: Results indicate that the “healthy immigrant effect” often reported for diabetes and other physical health measures may also be protective for mental health. Women are more likely to rate their mental health as good. However, our examination did not account for clinical diagnosis of mental illness. More research is needed to inform evidence-based policy and practice guidelines in addressing potential gendered and immigration differences in both measured and perceived mental health.