Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Geography and Geology


K. Bruce Newbold


John Eyles



Committee Member

Susan Elliott


This thesis presents the results of a study exploring the health status and health determinants in two farming groups in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Old Order Mennonites (OOMs) and non-OOM farmers. Physical health and mental health are examined, and Canada’s 12 health determinants (excluding genetics) are included in the analysis. A survey was distributed to both groups in 2010 to obtain information on health status and determinants. Comparing the two groups reduces the likely impact of contextual features impacting both, such as local economic conditions. The mental component summary (MCS) and physical component summary (PCS) of the SF-12 were used to measure mental and physical health. The study compares health in the two populations, and uses ordinary least squares (multiple) regression to determine the relative importance of the determinants in shaping health. The study found that mental health is better in OOMs, mainly due to OOM women’s strong mental health. Physical health was worse in OOMs, and while true for both genders, OOM women appear to be particularly disadvantaged. There is overlap between the groups in the determinants shaping physical and mental health. In both groups, mental health is shaped by social interaction, stress and coping; and physical health by age, childhood disease history, coping and body mass index. This suggests these factors may be important across many populations facing different life circumstances, thus representing priorities for policy action. Interestingly, the key determinants shaping physical health in both groups do not include social factors such as social capital, although social factors do shape mental health (especially in OOMs). This may be due to the rural or farming status of the two groups, or differences between physical and mental health. Determining which is more likely requires reconciling the results of this study with others, an effort hampered by differences in models, methods and health outcomes employed.

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