Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 105, Issue 4, pp e239–e244 | Cite as

Body mass index among immigrant and non-immigrant youth: Evidence from the Canadian Community Health Survey

  • Gita WahiEmail author
  • Michael H. Boyle
  • Katherine M. Morrison
  • Katholiki Georgiades
Quantitative Research


OBJECTIVES:The objectives of this study are to: i) examine differences in body mass index (BMI) and prevalence of overweight/obesity between immigrant versus non-immigrant youth aged 12–19 years, and ii) identify the extent to which lifestyle and socio-demographic factors account for between-group differences.

METHODS: Data for analyses come from combining repeated, cross-sectional surveys of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) conducted between 2000 and 2008. The sample for analyses included 63,509 youth aged 12 to 19 years (mean 15.2, SD 2.3 years) with self-reported weight and height. Immigrant youth composed 6.4% of this sample. Multilevel linear and logistic regression analyses were used to address the study objectives.

RESULTS: Approximately 22% of non-immigrant youth were overweight/obese, compared to 18% of immigrant youth (p<0.001). Immigrant youth had a lower zBMI by 0.44 compared to non-immigrant youth (p<0.001) and zBMI increased by 0.02 for every year an immigrant-respondent resided in Canada. Measures of lifestyle and socio-demographic factors did not account for differences in body composition between immigrant and nonimmigrant youth.

CONCLUSION: Even after adjusting for lifestyle and socio-demographic factors, immigrant youth have a lower level of overweight/obesity and a lower zBMI, compared to non-immigrant youth. Further, for immigrant youth zBMI increases with time spent in Canada, which highlights an opportunity for primary preventative strategies for obesity aimed at newcomers to Canada.

Key Words

Overweight obesity immigrant youth body mass index 


OBJECTIFS : Les objectifs de cette étude sont: i) d’examiner les différences dans l’indice de masse corporelle (IMC) et la prévalence du surpoids/de l’obésité entre les jeunes de 12 à 19 ans immigrants et non immigrants et ii) de déterminer la mesure dans laquelle le mode de vie et les facteurs sociodémographiques expliquent les différences entre ces groupes.

MÉTHODE : Les données d’analyse ont été obtenues en combinant les enquêtes transversales répétées de l’Enquête sur la santé dans les collectivités canadiennes (ESCC) menées entre 2000 et 2008. L’échantillon d’analyse comprenait 63 509 jeunes de 12 à 19 ans (moyenne 15,2, déviation sensible [DS] 2,3 ans) ayant déclaré leur poids et leur taille. Les jeunes immigrants composaient 6,4 % de cet échantillon. Des analyses multiniveaux linéaires et des analyses de régression logistique ont servi à aborder les objectifs de l’étude.

RÉSULTATS : Environ 22 % des jeunes non immigrants étaient en surpoids ou obèses, contre 18 % des jeunes immigrants (p<0,001). Le score-z de l’IMC des jeunes immigrants était inférieur de 0,44 à celui des jeunes non immigrants (p<0,001), et ce score augmentait de 0,02 pour chaque année de résidence au Canada d’un répondant immigrant. Les indicateurs du mode de vie et des facteurs sociodémographiques n’expliquaient pas les différences dans la composition corporelle des jeunes immigrants et non immigrants.

CONCLUSION : Même après un rajustement des données pour tenir compte du mode de vie et des facteurs sociodémographiques, les jeunes immigrants ont un moindre niveau de surpoids/d’obésité et un score-z de l’IMC inférieur à celui des jeunes non immigrants. De plus, pour les jeunes immigrants, le score-z de l’IMC augmente avec le temps passé au Canada, ce qui présente la possibilité de mener des stratégies de prévention primaire de l’obésité axées sur les nouveaux arrivants au Canada.

Mots Clés

surpoids obésité immigrants jeunes indice de masse corporelle 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gita Wahi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael H. Boyle
    • 2
  • Katherine M. Morrison
    • 1
  • Katholiki Georgiades
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Offord Centre for Child Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural NeurosciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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