Canada's new arrivals develop new allergies, study finds

Canada's new arrivals develop new allergies, study finds

Immigrants come to Canada seeking a new life, but it turns out many of them also begin to develop new allergies.

A study from the University of British Columbia found 14 per cent of immigrants living in Canada for less than 10 years suffered from non-food allergies like hayfever, but after 10 years, that rate increased to almost 24 per cent.

Researcher Hind Sbihi said roughly 30 per cent of non-immigrants have non-food allergies.

"Allergies are conditions that arise because of your genetic predisposition, but the spike in allergy rise cannot be explained by genetic mutation only," Sbihi told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Sbihi said there is a phenomenon known as the "healthy immigrant effect" wherein immigrants report having better health than those who were born in Canada. However, the health of immigrants tend to decline as their years in Canada increase.

Sbihi's work was looking at whether this effect also applied to non-food allergies.

She said if environmental factors are indeed responsible, it's not clear what those environmental factors are.

"It's a very, very hard one to unravel," she said. "Maybe it's a combination of the air you breathe and the stress of the new lifestyle … these two could play a role."

Sbihi said the trend with allergies was seen across countries of origin.

Sbihi's study used self-reported data from 116,232 respondents from the Canadian Community Health Survey.

The research was published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Canada's new arrivals develop new allergies, study finds