Canadians may pride themselves on striving for an equal society, but when it comes to health, the colour of your skin may still make a difference in this country.
More specifically, Canadians with darker skin are more likely to report poor health, than those with lighter skin, a new University of British Columbia study says.
The study found evidence that “colourism” was effecting the health of Canadians, for better and worse – a finding similar to research in the United States.
Published online in the journal of Social Science & Medicine, the research found that black Canadians with darker skin were four times more likely to say their health was poor, than black Canadians with lighter skin. The study was conducted with a 2009 telephone survey of 1,500 residents in Toronto and Vancouver, among them 47 black Canadians.
The results supported existing research: black Canadians were more likely than other groups to report high blood pressure, while Asian Canadians were the most likely to describe their mental health as poor. As well, people whose racial identity was often mistaken by others were more likely to report negative health factors.
For example, the odds of reporting high blood pressure were two times greater among participants who considered themselves white, but who believe others tend to think of them as mixed-race.
The study did not look at the causes of this trend, and, given the relatively small sample, more research needs to be done in this area. But Gerry Veenstra, the study’s author and a sociology professor at UBC said the broad racial classification used by researchers may underestimate the impact of race on health.
“This is a first step to understanding colourism's manifestations in Canada and the degree to which and for whom it affects health and well-being."
Do you think racial identity influences your health?