FHI: Social differences are not the main cause of higher infection among foreign-born people in Norway

Festplassen testing station - BergenPhoto: Marit Hommedal / NTB

More hospital admissions and more corona infection among immigrant groups than elsewhere in the Norwegian population are only partly due to socio-economic differences, according to a report from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI).

In their work on the report, the researchers at the FHI have, among other things, looked at the significance of lower education, income, overcrowding, and vulnerable occupations in connection to infection and hospitalizations among foreign-born people in Norway.

Department Director Thor Indseth at the FHI said that the report first and foremost shows that there is no single simple explanation for higher infection in the immigrant population and that the reasons are complex.

“It is not the case that overcrowding or occupation alone explains the figures we observe,” he said in a press release.


People born abroad make up around 16% of the population in Norway. In the period June 15, 2020, to March 31, 2021, a total of 3,140 out of 100,000 of this population segment were diagnosed with coronavirus infection.

In the same period, 1,175 out of 100,000 Norwegian-born people were diagnosed with the infection. The corresponding proportions for hospital admissions are 147 and 37 per 100,000, respectively.

Last week, foreign-born people accounted for 39% of the reported cases of infection and 56% of the new corona-related hospitalizations, according to the FHI’s weekly report.

In total, through the pandemic, foreign-born people account for 36% of infections in Norway since the start of the pandemic.

Social inequality a risk factor

Indseth, at the FHI, says that social inequality in isolation is a risk factor for both infection and hospitalization due to coronavirus.

“Nevertheless, the socio-economic differences do not explain why the pandemic has hit some immigrant groups harder than the general population,” he said,

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s new report shows that age, gender, and the municipality of residence explain around 21% of the overrepresentation in proven infection in foreign-born people.

The municipality of residence has the greatest importance, but there is no single factor that points out why the proportion of infection is greater in the immigrant population, the FHI writes.

More knowledge needed

At the same time, previous surveys show that foreign-born people are at least as good at following advice on social distancing as the rest of the population. They also test themselves more than the rest of the population.

“The fact that these groups test themselves a lot is good. Despite this, the proportion of those tested who are positive is still much higher in many immigrant groups than in the rest of the population,” Indseth said.

He believes this may indicate that there is some unregistered infection and that it is, therefore, important to have even more testing. Since the researchers have not found any clear answers to the differences in the incidence of infection and hospitalizations, they believe that this may mean that a large number of infection cases occur within these environments.

They also believe that it is crucial that infection tracing teams ensure good communication and point out that it is important to gain more knowledge about more issues related to immigrant health.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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