Report disputes claim migrants are burden on healthcare

FILE PHOTO: Hands of migrants are seen on board the MV Aquarius in the harbour of Valletta, Malta, August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

New research disproves claims that international migrants are a burden on the health services of high income countries.

The researchers state that currently held perceptions that migrants have a negative impact on health services can be contradicted by the existence of a ‘mortality advantage’, something found in international migrants  across different categories of disease, compared with the host population.

The paper entitled, ‘Global patterns of mortality in international migrants: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, draws on 96 studies carried out on the health of migrants, from 92 countries.  The findings draw on 5464 mortality estimates from more than 15.2 million migrants, 5327 from high-income countries (97%), 115 from middle income countries (2%) and 22 from low income countries (less than 1%).

Migrants greater advantage than asylum seekers

In refugees, the mortality advantage was recorded through their Standardized Mortality Ratio. The further from 1 in the ratio, the greater the mortality advantage. The report says that refugees’ SMR, amounted to an average of 0·50 [0·46–0·54], the overall being 89·8%, more in favour of the refugee population.  Better could be recorded for the international migrants classification, which showed a figure of 99·8%, greater than the general population.  Asylum seekers scored much worse with 1·05 [0·89–1·24], overall 54·4%.

The advantage also existed across many of the disease categories included in the International Classification of Diseases, tenth revision, resulting in the SMR.  Over half of the categories (13 ICD-10 categories) which can lead to death, migrants held advantages over the host population in diseases involving, ‘circulatory, digestive, endocrine, injuries, mental and behavioural, neoplasms, nervous, and respiratory’. Blood, genitourinary, and musculoskeletal were recorded with no difference between both groups.

Where the major difference lies is in terms of infectious diseases and other causes of death, these were 2·4 and 1.3 on the ratio respectively, when compared with the general population.  These surmised as being connected to illnesses like viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, and HIV. The latter could be explained as possible assault or other physical injuries.

Supporting the positive contribution of migrants

The researchers say that these findings are consistent with migrants who are living, working or studying in high income countries.

Although the research admits that there is more needing to be done to understand the true mortality rates conditions of asylum seekers and other groups that are not fully accounted for, their work identifies that perceptions that international migrants are burdensome to the health services of high income nations are false.

Their lengthy research instead supports the mortality advantage and that more needs to be done to change both the perceptions and recognition of the contributions made by migrants.