9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Inequalities and Social Revisions in European Health I Building I, 1E2

Generational Changes in Ethnic Health Inequalities in UK

The United Kingdom´s long history of migration from the Commonwealth, and more recently from Europe, has given rise to a significant UK-born population of migrants. While previous research strongly suggests that ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience a poorer health profile compared to the overall population, it is not clear whether these inequalities persist over generations.

Objectives: To investigate whether ethnic health inequalities are transmitted across generations, and to determine the extent that intergenerational changes in socioeconomic status and health behavioural factors might explain any variation that exists.

Methods: Data from 2,232 mothers from the UK Millennium Cohort Study investigated the prevalence of fair/poor general health, limiting illness and overweight/obesity in the UK-born and overseas-born generations of seven ethnic minority groups (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean, Black African, White European and Other). A white population was selected as reference (n=14,882). The risk of poor health outcome was assessed using logistic regression models and stepwise inclusion of socioeconomic and behavioural variables standardised for age. Cross-generational changes in smoking, drinking, exercise and dietary behaviours, as well as socioeconomic status were estimated in individual ethnic groups relative to the white population.

Results: There were no significant differences in the reporting of fair/poor health, having a limiting illness or being overweight/obese in UK-born mothers compared to foreign-born. Adjusting for socioeconomic position increased the rates of ill health in the UK-born for all outcomes, whereas health behaviours had little effect. Individual ethnic minority groups demonstrated significant acculturative convergence to the rates of smoking, drinking and dietary behaviours observed in the white reference population with the greatest changes taking place in migrants from outside of Europe. Similarly there was strong upward socioeconomic mobility in all groups with exception to those from Europe who were more likely to be downwardly mobile over generations.

Conclusion: Ethnic inequalities in health in the UK are persistent across generations, despite the health benefits associated with upward socioeconomic mobility. These health inequalities are unaffected by changes in health behaviours. Understanding these intergenerational pathways will have important public health policy implications as the migrant population not only ages, but also reproduces.