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Ethnic differences in self reported health in Malmö in southern Sweden


STUDY OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to investigate ethnic differences in self reported health in the city of Malmö, Sweden, and whether these differences could be explained by psychosocial and economic conditions.

DESIGN/SETTING/PARTICIPANTS The public health survey in Malmö 1994 was a cross sectional study. A total of 5600 people aged 20–80 years completed a postal questionnaire. The participation rate was 71%. The population was categorised according to country of origin: born in Sweden, other Western countries, Yugoslavia, Poland, Arabic speaking countries and all other countries. The multivariate analysis was performed using a logistic regression model in order to investigate the importance of possible confounders on the differences by country of origin in self reported health. Finally, variables measuring psychosocial and economic conditions were introduced into the model.

MAIN RESULTS The odds ratios of having poor self reported health were significantly higher among men born in other Western countries, Yugoslavia, Arabic speaking countries and in the category all other countries, as well as among women born in Yugoslavia, Poland and all other countries, compared with men and women born in Sweden. The multivariate analysis including age and education did not change these results. A huge reduction of the odds ratios was observed for men and women born in Yugoslavia, Arabic speaking countries and all other countries, and for women born in Poland after the introduction of the social network, social support and economic factors into the multivariate model.

CONCLUSIONS There were significant ethnic group differences in self reported health. These differences were greatly reduced by psychosocial and economic factors, which suggest that these factors may be important determinants of self rated health in certain minority groups.

  • self reported health
  • social network
  • social support

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  • Funding: this study was supported by grants from the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation, the Swedish Medical Research Council (B93–27X-10428–01A), the Swedish Medical Research Council (K99–27X-11651–04A), the Swedish Council for Social Research (F0289/1999), the Medical Faculty, Lund University, and the National Institute of Public Health.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.