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Relationships between Culture and Health Status: A Multi-Site Study of the Older Chinese in Canada*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2010

Daniel W.L. Lai
Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary
Ka Tat Tsang
Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
Neena Chappell
Centre on Aging, University of Victoria
David C.Y. Lai
Centre on Aging, University of Victoria
Shirley B.Y. Chau
Faculty of Health and Social Development, School of Social Work, University of British Columbia–Okanagan
E-mail address:


This study examined the relationships between culture and the health status of older Chinese in Canada. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews with a cross-sectional, randomly selected sample of 2,272 older Chinese between 55 and 101 years of age in seven Canadian cities. Health status was assessed by the number of chronic illnesses, by limitations in ADL and IADL, and by information on the Medical Outcome Study Short Form SF-36. Although cultural variables explained only a small proportion of variance in health status, having a stronger level of identification with traditional Chinese health beliefs was significant in predicting physical health, number of illnesses, and limitations on IADL. Other cultural variables, including religion, country of origin, and length of residence in Canada, were also significant in predicting some health variables. Interventions to improve health should focus on strategies to enhance cultural compatibility between users and the health delivery system.


La présente étude examine les relations entre la culture et l'état de santé des aînés chinois au Canada. Les données ont été recueillies lors d'entretiens face à face avec un échantillon transversal de 2 272 aînés chinois de 55 à 101 ans sélectionnés au hasard dans sept villes canadiennes. Leur état de santé a été évalué en fonction du nombre de maladies chroniques, des limites de l'AVQ et de l'AIVQ, et de la Medical Outcome Study Short Form SF-36. Bien que les variables culturelles n'expliquent qu'une petite partie de la variance dans l'état de santé, être davantage au courant des modèles traditionnels de croyance à la santé des Chinois est important si l'on veut prévoir la santé physique, le nombre de maladies, et les limites associées aux activités instrumentales de la vie quotidienne. D'autres variables culturelles, notamment la religion, le pays d'origine, et la période de résidence au Canada étaient aussi importantes afin de prévoir certaines variables associées à la santé. Les interventions visant à améliorer la santé devraient porter sur des stratégies permettant d'améliorer la compatibilité culturelle entre les utilisateurs et le système de distribution des soins.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2007

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This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada under the strategic theme Society, Culture and Health of Canadians (Grant No: 828-1999-1032).


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