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Generational continuity and change in British Asian health and health behaviour.
  1. R Williams,
  2. M Shams
  1. MRC Medical Sociology Unit, University of Glasgow.


    OBJECTIVES: To trace patterns of health and health behaviour in those with ancestry in the Indian subcontinent (British Asians) compared with the general population of their age (1) in the younger generation age 14-15 mainly born in the UK and (2) in the older mainly migrant generation. DESIGN: Cross sectional random sample surveys of two age groups in Glasgow. SAMPLES: 334 British Asians (86% born in the UK) and 490 non-Asians, all aged 14-15; 173 British Asians aged 30-40 (mean age 35, 93% born abroad), and 344 general population aged 35. MEASURES: Health: self assessed health/fitness, longstanding/limiting illness, chronic phlegm, accidents, symptoms, tooth loss. Health behaviour: smoking, alcohol, drugs, exercise. RESULTS: At age 14-15, compared with non-Asian counterparts: fewer British Asian girls reported limiting illness (p < 0.05) or chronic phlegm (p < 0.01), fewer boys reported accidents (p < 0.01), and fewer of both sexes had lost second teeth (p < 0.05); more of both sexes reported not smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs (p < 0.01 or below), fewer reported frequent exercise (p < 0.05 or below). Smoking patterns were consistently related to ethnic differences in chronic phlegm, and patterns of alcohol consumption to those in accidents. In health, British Asian girls aged 14-15 generally compared more favourably with non-Asian counterparts than did those aged 30-40. The reverse was true for British Asian male subjects. In health behaviour, British Asians of both sexes aged 14-15 showed strong continuities with those aged 30-40. CONCLUSIONS: Favourable health behaviour has brought a health advantage to young British born Asians, even though this was not the case in the migrant generation. Female health disadvantage is also much less marked than in migrants aged 30-40, but may re-emerge between ages 15-30. Migrant Asian male subjects may have had misleadingly high respiratory health levels because of positive selection.

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