Immigrants live healthier lives

Immigrants lived healthier lives than their Australian-born counterparts throughout the 1990s-with lower overall death and hospitalisation rates, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australian Health Inequalities: Birthplace, measured the health of immigrants by classifying birthplace into several large country groupings.

Death rates for immigrants were 10-15% lower during the 1990s than for the Australian-born population, although rates for both groups fell by over 20% during this 10-year period.

Asian-born immigrants had especially low death rates for colorectal and prostate cancer, respiratory causes and suicide.

Immigrants also had lower hospitalisation rates-for example, in 1999-00 males born in the United Kingdom and Ireland or in Asia had hospitalisation rates 27% lower than Australian-born males. Females born in Asia had hospitalisation rates 25% lower than Australian-born females.

Asian-born immigrants had lower rates of lifestyle-related disease risk factors such as overweight and obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption-but they also reported higher rates of inactivity. Immigrants from European countries outside the UK and Ireland also reported higher rates of inactivity.

Co-author of report, Michael de Looper, said the inequalities in health between immigrants and the Australian-born population reflects the 'healthy migrant effect': people in good health are more likely to migrate than others. In Australia's case, this is reinforced by health requirements for migrants. However, other risk factors such as diet and tobacco smoking also play a role.

There are some instances where immigrants have higher death rates than Australian-born people.

'Immigrants born in the United Kingdom and Ireland experience higher rates of death from breast and lung cancer,' Mr de Looper said.

'Also, some immigrant groups from Europe, the Pacific Islands and Asia have higher diabetes mortality rates.

26 July 2002

Further information: Mr Michael de Looper, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1137, or mobile: 0409 307 671

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032