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Sending money home may be good for immigrants’ health, says Canadian study

health of new immigrants

A new study from researchers at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, looks at the connection between the mental and emotional health of new immigrants to Canada and their remittance practices -the action of transferring money back to family members in the country from which a person has emigrated.

Maintaining financial ties with family and friends in one’s “home country” is a very common practice, not just in Canada but the world over. The World Bank reports that global remittance transfers have tripled over the past decade and will reach $610 billion this year. In Canada alone, $24 billion a year left the country by remittance in 2012.

But how does this practice affect the health of new Canadians? It is known that upon arrival in Canada, immigrants on average have better health than the general population -a fact in part due to the Canada’s immigration selection process which screens for both medical as well as economic fitness- but that over time, this health advantage dissipates as new immigrants take up domestic dietary and lifestyle habits.

Researchers from the Department of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario analyzed data from the Longitudinal Study of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC), a Statistics Canada and Citizenship and Immigration survey conducted with over 12,000 new immigrants to Canada between October 2000 and September 2001, in order to find a possible correlation between remittance practices and health trends among new immigrants.

The results showed that immigrants who are sending money back to their families within the first six months of arriving in Canada were 19 per cent more likely to self-report of emotional health problems during the first two years of living in Canada. At the same time, it was found that long-term remittance practices correlated with better self-reported emotional health from year two onwards and that this relationship was especially strong for women, who were 42 per cent less likely to self-report experiencing emotional problem past year two if they regularly remitted.

Researchers speculate that once the initial stress of acclimatization and finding work and accommodation is over, the remittance practice over the long term serves a healthy purpose in giving immigrants’ efforts within Canada greater purpose, as well as helping to maintain ties with family and friends in the ‘home’ country, especially for immigrant women.

“Our analyses show that remitting extensively acts as a buffer against emotional health decline for healthy females, and remitting moderately functions as a pathway to emotional health recovery for unhealthy females,” say the study’s authors.

The global rise in remittance has led to a growth in fintech startups responding to the need for quicker and less expensive options for international money transfer, mostly through mobile payment options. According to the World Bank, the average cost of transfer was 7.68 per cent in June 2015 and while the cost of sending remittances from G20 countries has declined recently, the cost of sending money into G20’s has gone up.

The study was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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