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Language barriers among the foreign-born in Canada: agreement of self-reported measures and persistence over time

Okrainec K, Booth GL, Hollands S, Bell CM. J Immigr Minor Health. 2017; 19(1):50-6. Epub 2015 Sep 22.


Persistent language barriers are associated with poor health outcomes. The agreement between reporting a language barrier at time of immigration and in the 2007-2008 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) was calculated using kappa scores among foreign-born individuals who arrived to Ontario, Canada between 1985 and 2005. A total of 2323 immigrants were included, with a mean (± SD) time of 10.2 ± 6.4 years between immigration and completing the CCHS. Only 6 % of immigrants reported a persistent language barrier, resulting in a low agreement between the two sources (kappa = 0.06, 95 % CI 0.042-0.086). Though immigrants were less likely to report a persistent language barrier the longer they had been in Canada, only 13 % of immigrants who had arrived <2 years ago reported one. Self-reported language barriers at time of immigration are poor indicators of persistent language barriers. There is a need for a better measure of language barriers among Canadian immigrants.

Keywords: Social determinants of health Ethnicity and culture

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