The Healthy Immigrant Effect and Active Commuting

More than two-thirds of Canadians are not reaching recommended daily levels of physical activity, and commuting on foot or by bike provides a means of integrating activity into daily living. Despite consistent evidence of the association between immigration status and physical activity, the effects of acculturation on active commuting has been understudied. This study examines two hypotheses: foreign-born individuals have increased odds of active commuting compared to Canadian-born individuals – a ‘healthy immigrant effect’; and among the foreign-born, there is an inverse association between time since immigration and time spent active commuting – loss of this effect over time. Data was compiled from more than 59,000 individuals from the 2013–2014 cycle of the Canadian Community Health Survey and probability weighted to account for the survey sampling method. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to examine relationships. Four active commuting categories were examined, from none to commuting times sufficient to meet Canadian physical activity guidelines (≥ 150 minutes per week). After adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, and personal income, the odds of active commuting versus none were higher for foreign-born individuals compared to Canadian-born individuals for 75 to < 150 minutes per week (OR= 1.41, 95% CI 1.15, 1.73) and ≥ 150 minutes per week (OR= 1.35, 95% CI 1.06, 1.73). Within the immigrant cohort, the odds of meeting Canadian guidelines were greater for recent immigrants than late immigrants (OR=1.78, 95% CI 1.29, 2.46). These findings show for the first time that recent immigrants have higher levels of active commuting compared with late immigrants in a dose-response pattern. They suggest that there could be missed opportunities to retain active commuters after immigrants arrive in Canada. This is especially important for policymakers as the proportion of foreign-born persons is expected to increase from 25 to 28% of the Canadian population by 2031.


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  • Accession Number: 01687210
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 16 2018 3:05PM