Original Study| Volume 21, ISSUE 6, P740-746.e5, June 2020

Health Outcomes of Immigrants in Nursing Homes: A Population-Based Retrospective Cohort Study in Ontario, Canada



      Older adults account for a significant portion of Canadian immigrants, yet characteristics and health outcomes of older immigrants in nursing homes have not been studied. We aimed to describe the prevalence of immigrants living in nursing homes, their characteristics, and their hospitalization and mortality rates compared to long-term residents in the first year of entry to nursing homes.


      Population-based, retrospective cohort study using linked health administrative databases.

      Setting and Participants

      We assessed all incident admissions into publicly funded nursing homes in Ontario between April 2013 and March 2016. Immigrants were defined as those who arrived in Canada after 1985; long-term residents are those who arrived before 1985 or are Canadian-born.


      The primary outcome was all-cause hospitalization and mortality rates within 1 year of nursing home entry. Nested Cox proportional hazards models were estimated to explore the associations of facility, demographic, and clinical characteristics to the primary outcomes.


      Immigrants comprised 4.4% of residents in Ontario's nursing homes, compared to 13.9% in the general population. The majority were from East and Southeast Asia (52.2%), and more than half (53.9%) had no competency in either official language on arrival in Canada. At the time of nursing home entry, immigrants were younger than long-term residents but had greater functional and cognitive impairments. Immigrants had a lower rate of mortality [hazard ratio 0.58, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.51, 0.68; P < .001] but were more likely to be hospitalized (hazard ratio 1.14, 95% CI 1.06, 1.23; P < .001). Adjusting for language ability, the effect of immigrant status on hospitalization was not statistically significant.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Despite greater functional and cognitive impairments, immigrants in nursing homes had lower mortality than long-term residents, potentially reflecting the “healthy immigrant effect.” Inability to speak English was associated with increased risk of hospitalization, highlighting the need for strategies to overcome communication barriers.


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