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PhD student Sandeep Dhillon shares research on sociocultural relationships of older immigrant Punjabi

May 31, 2021
Written by: PhD Student Sandeep Dhillon

Throughout this adverse year, I successfully published my first article (as first author) on the sociocultural relationships of older immigrant Punjabi women living in Nova Scotia: implications for well-being. What started as a research study to fulfill my requirements for my master’s degree, I published the findings to have a more significant impact on furthering the limited knowledge that exists on this vulnerable cultural group. With the increase of South Asian immigrants in Canada, the relationship between older immigrant Punjabi women's sociocultural relationships and their mental health and well-being needs to be understood. This study was guided by the social determinants of health and intersectional feminist frameworks. I interviewed five older Punjabi women living in Nova Scotia using a qualitative descriptive design. These women were recruited from the two largest Gurdwaras (place of worship) in Nova Scotia. I attended weekly prayer events to help connect with community members and build rapport. Conducting the interviews in Punjabi was critical as it allowed the women to articulate and express their thoughts and feelings without any sociocultural barriers. In doing so, three themes were identified: (a) having freedom yet being dependent on families, (b) conflating having a happy family with having good mental health, and (c) needing ways to connect with other older Punjabi women. The findings presented in this article articulate how Punjabi relationships affect women's views on mental health and well-being. If interested, please read more.

Interesting fact: My personal experience of pursuing mental health research in the Punjabi culture stems from my greatest inspiration, my grandmother. My grandmother grew up in the early 1920s in Punjab, India, and lived a life one can only imagine. She became a widow by the age of 44 and raised her seven children all on her own while living in a patriarchal rural society. Being a leader, a role model, and most importantly, a provider made me recognize my grandmother's resilience but also made me question her mental health and well-being. 

Personal fact: Being born and raised in Central Ontario, I’ve had the privilege to live on both coasts of Canada. Both metropolitan cities (Vancouver and Halifax) offer their uniqueness and beauty, however, I believe visiting the Maritimes should be on everyone’s travel list. Halifax (in my humble opinion) has the best Canadian food scene! Be sure to check out Studio East, The Coastal Café, and The Bicycle Thief.