Does Participating in Religious Activities Have a Long-Term Effect on the Emotional/Mental Health of Immigrants in Canada?

Abstract

Empirical studies on how religiosity relates to immigrant mental health are limited and most have been set in the American context. To what extent the positive relationship found among immigrants in the United States can be generalized to other countries is unknown. The current study fills a gap in the literature by using nationally representative data on immigrants to Canada to examine the long-term effect of religious participation on emotional/mental health. The existing literature on the relationship between religious involvement and emotional/mental health has largely used cross-sectional data. By using longitudinal data, the current study tackles the issue of reverse causality which more commonly exists in studies using cross-sectional data. Results from panel regression analyses showed that participating in religious activities frequently (i.e., daily or every two to three days) reduces the odds of having emotional/mental problems at a later time. However, this association can be moderated by gender. Compared to those who did not participate in religious activities, female immigrants fared worse if they participated regularly (i.e., weekly or two to three times a month), whereas male participants did not differ in their emotional/mental health regardless of frequency of religious participation.

Résumé

Les études empiriques sur le lien entre la religiosité et la santé mentale des immigrants sont limitées et pour la plupart font référence au contexte américain. Dans quelle mesure la relation positive trouvée chez les immigrants aux États-Unis peut être généralisée à d'autres pays est inconnu. L'étude actuelle comble cette lacune dans la littérature en utilisant des données représentatives à l'échelle nationale sur les immigrants au Canada pour examiner l'effet à long terme de la participation religieuse sur la santé émotionnelle/mentale. La littérature existante sur la relation entre l'implication religieuse et la santé émotionnelle/mentale a largement utilisé des données transversales. En utilisant des données longitudinales, la présente étude aborde la question de la causalité inverse qui plague les études utilisant des données transversales. Les résultats des analyses de régression de panel montre que la participation fréquente à des activités religieuses (c.-à-d. tous les jours ou tous les 2-3 jours) réduit les chances d'avoir des problèmes émotionnels/mentaux plus tard. Cependant, cette association peut être modérée par le sexe. Par rapport à celles qui ne participaient pas à des activités religieuses, les femmes immigrantes s'en tiraient moins bien si elles participaient régulièrement (c.-à-d. chaque semaine ou deux à trois fois par mois), tandis que les participants masculins ne différaient pas dans leur santé émotionnelle/mentale, quelle que soit la fréquence de leur participation religieuse.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    First-generation immigrants are individuals who were born in the United States or in a foreign country as a U.S. citizen. Second-generation immigrants are those having at least one parent of foreign birth.

  2. 2.

    Mexican-origin Americans refer to Mexican-born immigrants in the United States or U.S.-born individuals who have at least one parent or grandparent born in Mexico.

  3. 3.

    Of the immigrants admitted to Canada between October 2000 and September 2001, 67% were under the economic class (Chui, 2003).

  4. 4.

    The joint frequency between religious participation in waves 2 and 3 and religious affiliation was not released by the Research Data Centre with Statistics Canada due to data confidentiality issues; percentages that are too small may expose the identity of the respondents.

  5. 5.

    Regression results are available upon request.

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Acknowledgements

I am immensely grateful to Drs. Lisa Kaida, Eric Tenkorang, and Liam Swiss, for their professional guidance and comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.

The analysis presented in this paper was conducted at the Memorial University of Newfoundland RDC which is part of the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN). The services and activities provided by the Memorial University of Newfoundland RDC are made possible by the financial or in-kind support of the SSHRC, the CIHR, the CFI, Statistics Canada, and Memorial University of Newfoundland. The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent the CRDCN’s or that of its partners.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 8 Marginal effects from the model predicting respondents’ emotional/mental problems in the subsequent wave based on their religious affiliation, by religious participation status

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Yu, M. Does Participating in Religious Activities Have a Long-Term Effect on the Emotional/Mental Health of Immigrants in Canada?. Can. Stud. Popul. 48, 1–28 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42650-021-00043-1

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Keywords

  • Emotional/mental health
  • Immigrants
  • Religious participation
  • Longitudinal analysis

Mots-clés

  • Santé mentale et emiotionnelle
  • Immigrants
  • Participation aux activités religieuses
  • Analyse longitudinale