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Intergenerational effects of residential schooling on obesity risk among Indigenous Canadians

TitleIntergenerational effects of residential schooling on obesity risk among Indigenous Canadians
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWilk, P., and Cooke M.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in June 2015 brought much needed attention to the role of residential schooling in the ongoing disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. In addition to the stories collected by the Commission, previous academic research has provided some evidence of the effects of residential schooling on mental health and suicidality (Elias, Migone et al, 2012; Gone, 2013), and on childhood obesity (Cooke et al. 2013). However, there has been no attempt to quantitatively examine the intergenerational effects of residential school experience on other health outcomes for which First Nations, Inuit and Métis are at higher risk, including adult diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stress, as well as on health-related behaviours such as drinking and smoking. Using the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey and a structural equation modelling (SEM) framework, we estimate the direct effects of personal residential school attendance, as well as the indirect effects of the attendance of previous generations' attendance, on these health outcomes for off-reserve Indigenous adults aged 30 and older. As expected, we find that there is significant clustering of residential school attendance within families. Individual and intergenerational school attendance is significantly related to several outcomes, including smoking and alcohol use. These results are potentially important for clinicians and others who work with Indigenous people, as well as for understanding the continuing impact of residential schooling.

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