Immigrants are 60 per cent less likely to die during a given time period than native-born Canadians and long-term residents in Ontario, says a new study that examines mortality rates based on immigration and socioeconomic status.

According to the joint study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and U of T, immigrants had a much lower death rate than non-immigrants, even if they happen to live in the most deprived areas in the province.

The mortality rate, or death rate, is a measure of the number of deaths in the population, typically indicated in units of deaths per 1,000 people over a specific time frame.

Immigrants’ lower mortality rate translated into 42,700 fewer deaths overall and 18,400 fewer premature deaths during the study period from 2002 to 2012, the study said.

“We were surprised by the magnitude of the difference. It’s big and substantial,” said U of T epidemiologist Laura Rosella, the lead author of the research paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community HealthJournal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Based on multiple population and demographic databases and the Ontario Registrar General’s death files, as well as census results and immigration records, the study examined the mortality rates across the socioeconomic spectrum among immigrants, native-born Canadians and long-term residents who came here before 1985.

There were 934,765 deaths registered in Ontario during the study period, including 19,501 deaths among female immigrants and 20,514 deaths among male immigrants.

The data showed a higher proportion of immigrants lived in neighbourhoods classified as having in the lowest socioeconomic conditions compared with long-term residents (29.5 per cent vs. 24 per cent for females; and 32.4 per cent vs. 23 per cent for males).

While Rosella said she had expected to see immigrants struggling financially and emotionally would have the highest mortality of all groups, the research showed poverty was instead the overwhelming determinant of health.

“What our study found was despite the healthy immigrant effect, those living in the most deprived areas, irrespective of immigration status, had the highest mortality rates,” said Rosella.

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