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Migration Status and Health

Challenges in researching migration status, health and health service use: an intersectional analysis of a South London community

B. Gazard, S. Frissa, L. Nellums, M. Hotopf and S. Hatch



Understanding the health of migrants is becoming progressively important as the proportion of people living outside their country of birth has continued to increase globally.  In London, the migrant population currently stands at 37%. This population is very diverse with migrants arriving from various places for a variety of reasons. This diversity makes it difficult to understand the relationship between migration status and health. Therefore, it is important to measure migration status in different ways: length of stay in the UK, first language and reason for migration and see if there are differences in health between these different groups and non-migrants. 
How was the study conducted?
1,698 adults from two South East London boroughs were interviewed from 2008-2010. People who took part were asked questions about their migration status, ethnicity, household income and education. Participants answered questions on general health, common mental disorder (such as depression and anxiety) and whether any physical health or emotional problems interfered with their life. Participants also reported on the health services they had used in the last year.  
What did we find?
Few differences were found between migrants and non-migrants for health or health service use. Perhaps, most importantly, we found no difference in health service use between migrants and non-migrants. In terms of health, migrants were less likely to report hazardous alcohol use and more likely to report emotional problems interfering with their life. Important differences emerged when we looked at migration status by length of stay, first language, reason for migration and ethnicity. Only White migrants, migrants whose first language was not English, and migrants who came to the UK for work or for asylum were more likely to report emotional problems interfering with their life compared to non-migrants. Although there was no difference between migrants and non-migrants in reporting general poor health, Black African non migrants were more likely to report general poor health compared to Black African non-migrants. 
Investigating migration status using length of stay, first language, reason for migration and ethnicity leads to better understanding of the effect migration status has on health and health service use. 
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