Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





Julie Hakim-Larson




Mental health is a term which encompasses “a positive sense of well-being, or the capacity to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face” (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2018, p. 1). Both risk and protective factors have previously been found to be associated with Arab immigrants’ mental health. Some documented risk factors for poor mental health include economic stressors, weak English language proficiency, and trauma (Lemaster et al., 2018), whereas documented protective factors for optimal mental health include trait resilience (e.g., Lemaster et al., 2018). Given the risks that Arab immigrants face before and after migration, effective coping strategies are vital for their success in a new country. The way that a person chooses to cope with stressors is embedded in a person’s culture, values, and customs (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Using a sequential explanatory mixed-methods approach with Arab-Canadian immigrants, this study examined self-reported risk and protective factors in relation to mental health, and the relation between acculturation and coping. Qualitative interviews, conducted after the quantitative study, addressed the following research questions: What was each participant’s lived experience in his or her home country? What challenges did participants face after arriving to Canada? Which factors helped immigrants settle in Canada? What are Arab-Canadian immigrants’ approaches to coping? Participants in the quantitative study included 172 1st generation Arab Canadian immigrants with origins from any of the 22 countries in the Arab League of States. Participants (58% female) were recruited from the community (n = 100) and a psychology participant pool in southwestern Ontario (n = 72). Qualitative interview participants (N = 11; 55% female) were a subsample from the quantitative study. For both the quantitative and qualitative components of the study, participants were on average 29 years old and were most often Iraqi, Muslim, and females with some university education. All participants completed either an online or in person set of questionnaires that addressed their mental health (i.e., well-being and mental illness outcomes), various risk and protective factors, and coping strategies. Next, a subsample of these participants with a range of mental health outcomes participated in a qualitative interview to further elucidate quantitative findings. Results from the quantitative study suggested that younger age at immigration, female gender, weak English language skills, socioeconomic problems, immigration problems, self-criticism coping, and avoidance coping were associated with more negative mental health indicators (e.g., lower well-being, higher levels of mental illness), whereas trait resilience and support from others coping were associated with more positive mental health indicators (e.g., positive emotions). Additionally, higher levels of Arab cultural orientation were associated with higher levels of collective coping, whereas higher levels of Canadian acculturation were associated with higher levels of engagement coping. Qualitative interview results revealed the following themes with respect to understanding participants’ lives in their native countries: Poor Quality of Life, Religious Lifestyle, Relocation Prior to Settling in Canada, and Simplicity. Additionally, participants immigrated to Canada in order to Improve Quality of Life. Common risk and protective factors were categorized into the following themes: Cultural, Economic, Personal Connections, and Trait Resilience. With respect to coping, participants described using the following coping strategies: Proactive Reflective Coping, Support from Other, and Faith. These results have several implications for policy and practice. Given that immigrants are at high risk for mental health problems, these results can support Canada’s goal to successfully integrate immigrants into Canadian society by informing policy makers of potential risk and protective factors in this group. By improving the quality of life of adult Arab immigrants, these individuals will be empowered to provide better care and advocacy for themselves and their relatives. If immigrants are better able to cope with their symptoms, they are less likely to require costly interventions later on.