UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Migration, health, and physical activity : perspectives of skilled immigrant women Lee, Donna Sau-Yung


The Healthy Immigrant Effect refers to the phenomenon of declining health among immigrants after relocating to Western countries, including Canada (Newbold, 2006). Health can be defined in holistic terms as physical, mental and social well-being, and the role of publicly-delivered physical activity opportunities is often overlooked when considering the health of recent immigrant women. Instead of conceptualizing health as a result of individual choices, this study drew on an intersectional approach to understanding how three social determinants of health (SDH), migration, socioeconomic status, and gender, are interrelated and mutually reinforcing (Hankivsky & Christoffersen, 2008). The purpose was to better understand how these three SDH influence the health of women who recently immigrated to Canada, and how their participation in community-based physical activity may (or may not) be affected. Qualitative interviews were conducted with women who recently immigrated to Canada as skilled workers (n = 18, <5 years in Canada, 18+ years old) from a number of different countries and who resided in one community in the Metro Vancouver Area. Data were coded using ATLAS.ti and attention was paid as to how participants discussed health and physical activity in relation to migration, gender and socioeconomic status. A majority of study participants defined health as a balance of physical and mental health. For women who found difficulty securing stable employment and income, who had difficulties communicating in English, and/or who had limited social support, particularly their mental health was negatively affected due to their expectation and need to be employed in Canada. Community-based physical activity was often sought out as an avenue to promote physical and mental health, as well as to build social networks; however, participation in opportunities and such sought-after benefits were not always possible. Thus, it is recommended that providers of community-based physical activity address issues such as affordability, lack of women-only opportunities, accounting for the gap in local knowledge and language facility, and facilitating social and intercultural opportunities through physical activity.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada