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March 02, 2006

Oh, Migratious!

Interesting:  a new study from the US Centers for Disease Control has determined that recent US immigrants are healthier than native-born US citizens:

Overwhelmingly, the study found, ... immigrants have lower rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure; have less disability; and are less likely to acknowledge having mental health problems.

I've often heard it claimed that British Columbia's good health, relative to the Northwest US (longer life spans, lower rates of chronic illness, etc.) can be attributed in part to immigration patterns, rather than healthier lifestyles or better health care in the province.  The claim seems somewhat plausible:  BC has large numbers of well-off and healthy Asian immigrants, who likely buoy health statistics in the province; whereas international immigration in the Northwest US is usually from poorer parts of the globe, such as Central and South America. 

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to find that international migration may not be a drag on health stats in the Northwest US after all -- just as in BC, in-migration may give health figures a boost.   

Then again, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise.  The Northwest states are healthier than the US average, but that's not saying much any more.  Life expectancy in the US ranks 29th in the world, behind nearly every other major industrial democracy.  It's now nearly a year shorter than in Costa Rica, and just behind such places as Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates.  Given that emigrants tend to be healthier than average for their home countries, and that the US's life expectancy lead has been slipping for decades, it probably shouldn't be at all shocking that in-migrants are now healthier on average than US natives.

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Comments

I don't see any mention of tuberculosis, which is one of the biggest public health concerns related to immigration.
The study probably didn't reach a proportional number of illegal aliens.

Posted by: sf | Mar 3, 2006 12:18:08 PM

It would have been interesting to see similar figures for emigration as well.

I'm healthy, uninsured, and moving to Canada. As such, I represent a huge failure in US health care -- that many healthy people opt-out of the whole insurance thing. But I'm getting older, and know I may not be healthy forever. So I'm moving to a civilized country.

I'll bet no one in the US even tracks emigration.

Posted by: Jan Steinman | Mar 8, 2006 4:30:23 AM