Neighbourhood context and diagnosed mental health conditions among immigrant and non-immigrant youth: a population-based cohort study in British Columbia, Canada Academic Article uri icon

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  • Purpose

    Evidence from systematic reviews suggests that adult immigrants living in areas of higher immigrant density (areas with a higher proportion of foreign-born residents) tend to experience fewer mental health problems-likely through less discrimination, greater access to culturally/linguistically appropriate services, and greater social support. Less is known about how such contexts are associated with mental health during childhood-a key period in the onset and development of many mental health challenges. This study examined associations between neighbourhood immigrant density and youth mental health conditions in British Columbia (BC; Canada).


    Census-derived neighbourhood characteristics were linked to medical records for youth present in ten of BC's largest school districts from age 5 through 19 over the study period (1995-2016; n = 138,090). Occurrence of physician assessed diagnoses of mood and/or anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and conduct disorder was inferred through International Classification of Diseases (ICD) diagnostic codes in universal public health insurance records. Multi-level logistic regression was used to model associations between neighbourhood characteristics and odds of diagnoses for each condition; models were stratified by generation status (first-generation: foreign-born; second-generation: Canadian-born to a foreign-born parent; non-immigrant).


    Higher neighbourhood immigrant density was associated with lower odds of disorders among first-generation immigrant youth (e.g., adjusted odds of mood-anxiety disorders for those in neighbourhoods with the highest immigrant density were 0.67 times lower (95% CI: 0.49, 0.92) than those in neighbourhoods with the lowest immigrant density). Such protective associations generally extended to second-generation and non-immigrant youth, but were-for some disorders-stronger for first-generation than second-generation or non-immigrant youth.


    Findings suggest there may be protective mechanisms associated with higher neighbourhood immigrant density for mental health conditions in immigrant and non-immigrant youth. It is important that future work examines potential pathways by which contextual factors impact immigrant and non-immigrant youth mental health.

publication date

  • May 2023