PhD student, Public Health and Health Systems

Tasneem Khan 


PhD, Public Health and Health Systems, 2017–2022

Graduate supervisor

Martin Cooke

My thesis

By 2031, immigration is projected to account for 80 percent of Canada’s population growth, making mental health among newcomers an important public health issue. The complexities of economic and social integration mean that the factors contributing to risk and protection of mental health might differ for immigrants and native-born Canadians. 

Applying the ecological systems and life-course perspectives, I am investigating the mental health of immigrants to Canada. Currently, using the 2017 General Social Survey and the Longitudinal and International Survey of Adults (2012–2020) at Statistics Canada’s Southwestern Research Data Centre, I am examining associations between household, neighbourhood and community specific contextual factors, particularly gender-related ones, and the mental health of immigrant mothers compared to fathers and Canadian-born mothers.

Previously, based on an analysis of the 2015/16 Canadian Community Health Survey, my advisor and I confirmed a significantly higher risk for anxiety and mood disorders, and poor self-rated mental health for immigrant women compared to immigrant men. Moreover, while controlling for socioeconomic, demographic, sense of belonging to community and language spoken at home factors, our research did not confirm better mental health among immigrants than native-born Canadians. This finding contrasts with the often-cited “healthy immigrant effect” and is in line with some recent research.1

Tasneem Khan


I have presented my work to public service and government officials at the Canadian Public Health Association and the International Metropolis Conference. In the future, I plan to share my research with stakeholders in the settlement sector and collaborators at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to inform gender-equitable programs and policy development.

My time at the School of Public Health Sciences

Working closely with Professors Martin Cooke and Ashok Chaurasia has enhanced my exploration of health inequities among different demographic groups using complex biostatistical methods. Professor Cooke’s help in developing my research niche in population mental health through the integration of theoretical frameworks has been invaluable. I also cherish the long-lasting friendships I have developed during my time at SPHS.


1Ng, E., & Zhang H. (2020). The mental health of immigrants and refugees: Canadian evidence from a nationally linked database. Health Reports. 31(8):3–12.Catalogue no. 82-003-X. Ottawa: Author. 

University of Waterloo