International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 357–371 | Cite as

Poorer self-perceived health among migrants and ethnic minorities versus the majority population in Europe: a systematic review

  • Signe Smith NielsenEmail author
  • Allan Krasnik



Knowledge about self-perceived health can help us understand the health status and needs among migrants and ethnic minorities in the European Union (EU) which is essential to improve equity and integration. The objective was to examine and compare self-perceived health among migrant and ethnic minority groups in the EU countries.


Publications were ascertained by a systematic search of PUBMED and EMBASE. Eligibility of studies was based on the abstracts and the full texts. Additional articles were identified via the references. The final number of studies included was 17.


Publications were identified in 5 out of the 27 EU countries. In regard to self-perceived health, most migrants and ethnic minority groups appeared to be disadvantaged as compared to the majority population even after controlling for age, gender, and socioeconomic factors. Only limited cross-country comparisons could be carried out, still they revealed a parallel pattern of self-perceived health among similar migrant/ethnic minority groups.


Policies to improve social and health status, contextual factors, and access to healthcare among migrants and ethnic minorities are essential to reduce ethnic inequalities in health.


Migrants Ethnic minorities Self-perceived health Health status Europe Review 



This paper is a product of the EU-funded project Migrant and Ethnic Minority Health Observatory (MEHO) ( from the work package “Healthcare utilization and self-perceived health”. Therefore, we would like to thank the project leader Marleen Foets, co-project leader Gerrit Koopmanns, and former leader Semiha Denktas (Erasmus Medical Centre, The Netherlands). Thanks also to Laura Cacciani, Emanuela Forcella, and Aldo Rosano (Agenzia di Sanità Pubblica della Regiona Lazio, Italy) for preparing a general survey for identification of registers and surveys in Europe. Also thanks to the other participants in the MEHO-project: Anton Kunst (University of Amsterdam), Johan Mackenbach and Irina Stirbu (Eramus Medical Centre, The Netherlands), Raj Bhopal and Snorri Bjorn Rafnsson (University of Edinburgh, Scotland), Oliver Razum, Jacob Spallek, and Anna Reeske (University of Bielefeld, Germany), Alexander Krämer, Manas Akmatov (University of Bielefeld, Germany), Kvetoslava Rimarova (University of Slovenia), and Dineke Zeegers (EUPHA).

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section for Health Services Research, Department of Public HealthUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark

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