Date: 04 Jan 2011

Health disparities between immigrant and Danish cleaners

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



It is unknown whether immigrants working in the cleaning industry have a poorer health and work ability than cleaners from the native population. The main aim was to investigate differences in objective and self-reported health measures between immigrant and Danish cleaners.


Three hundred and fifty-one cleaners, consisting of 166 Danes (88% women) and 179 immigrants (74% women) (6 with unknown ethnicity), from 9 workplaces in Denmark participated in the study. Health and work ability were obtained by objective (e.g., BMI and blood pressure) and self-reported measures (e.g., work ability, self-rated health, and musculoskeletal symptoms). In order to investigate differences between Danish and immigrant cleaners, logistic regression analyses and General Linear Models were performed.


When controlling for age, sex, workplace, job seniority, and smoking, more Danish compared with immigrant cleaners were current smokers (42% vs. 28%, p < 0.001 (not controlled for smoking)), had hypertension (46% vs. 26%, p < 0.05) and drank more alcohol (3.0 vs. 0.8 units per day, respectively, p < 0.001). Contrary, more immigrants compared with Danish cleaners were measured to be overweight (47% vs. 30%, p < 0.05), reported less than good work ability (57% vs. 42%, p < 0.01), considered it unthinkable/unsure to be able to perform work 2 years ahead (37% vs. 23%, p < 0.01), reported reduced self-rated health (46% vs. 38%, p < 0.01) and everyday pain in the neck/shoulder (28% vs. 11%, p < 0.01), wrist (18% vs. 7%, p < 0.01), and lower back (21% vs. 10%, p < 0.01). There were no differences in self-reported chronic diseases.


Although the health of the cleaners was alarmingly poor, the immigrant cleaners generally had a poorer self-reported health and work ability than the Danish cleaners. These findings highlight the need for occupational health actions among cleaners, particularly tailored to the immigrant subpopulation.