Many immigrants struggle with mental health problems

Photo: Sara Johannessen / SCANPIX -

Mental health problems are not necessarily more prevalent among people with refugee backgrounds than among labour immigrants, according to a report on immigrants’ living conditions, which the Norwegian Institute of Public Health presents on Wednesday.

For example, there were few mental health problems among immigrants from Somalia and Eritrea, while the proportion of mental health problems was twice as high among Polish immigrants as in the general population, says researcher Marte Kjøllesdal at the Institute of Public Health.

For some African countries and men from Sri Lanka and Vietnam, less mental health problems are reported than for Norwegians in general.

But in the rest of the immigrant groups in the survey, the proportion is higher. This especially applies to the group that comes from countries in the Middle East. Men from Iraq and Iran were five times more at risk of mental illness than other men, and women from Iran and Turkey were four times as high as other women.

Health problems come earlier
Persons from 12 countries who have a residence time in Norway of at least two years are included in the report, which is based on data Statistics Norway (SSB) collected in 2016. Several country groups have not been previously examined.

One finding that is made is that more immigrants experience illness at a younger age than the rest of the population. This is in line with previous studies.

This indicates that health deteriorates faster with age among immigrants than others, the report says.

However, the variation is large. The differences are also greater for immigrants between themselves than between immigrants in general and the majority population. Also, there is a great variety between men and women.

Health is better among immigrants with a short residence time than long, even when considering factors such as age.

It seems that immigrants copy the lifestyle of Norwegians when they have lived in Norway for a long time, both positive and negative aspects, says researcher Marte Kjøllesdal.

Far more smoke
The researchers have investigated how health is linked to age, education, work, how long immigrants have lived in the country, and discrimination.

One of the clearest findings is that the proportion of smokers was higher among immigrant men than among men in the general population. Norwegians have cut their smoking heavily in recent years, but the same decline is not seen for male immigrants.

In some groups, the proportion of smokers was twice as high as in the general population, while the proportion of smokers among immigrant women was lower than among other women, continues Kjllesdal.

Alcohol consumption, on the other hand, is lower in the vast majority of immigrant groups than in the rest of the population.

It is still worth noting that a significant proportion of immigrants, even from countries with a Muslim majority, drink alcohol. Immigrants with higher education and income had been drinking alcohol more often than others, the report says.

Exercise less
Other findings in the report:

Diabetes: Proportion has increased among immigrant men. It is now higher than for immigrant women.

Education: To a lesser extent related to health than for the majority population. May be related to the fact that education from abroad is often not reflected in work assignments, pay or reputation.

Physical activity: A lower proportion of immigrants are physically active than other Norwegians. Men report improved physical health as a result of physical activity, while for women it only showed improvement in mental health.

Cardiovascular disease: A higher proportion of immigrants than in the population, but great variation among the country groups.

Health differences: Differences between immigrants and the general population can only be partly explained by differences in age, education and income.

Language: Some correlation between health problems and Norwegian knowledge has been found, but the connection is not very strong.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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