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Research Findings: Ethnic background

The West of Scotland has long had a pattern of Irish migration, where migrants were poorer and discriminated against more than the local population.   We want to find out how people’s migration history affects their life chances over time and how these in turn affect their health. 

The other main ethnic group in the West of Scotland in the late 80s were South Asian.  The Twenty-07 Study was used as a comparison group for an investigation of the health of South Asians, examining why they appear to have poorer health than the other groups.

Our two main study areas relating to this theme are:

Irish Catholic health

Social and health disadvantage among Irish Catholics in Britain 150 years on
From Twenty-07 Study data we found that a higher proportion of “Catholics” were in manual social classes and experienced poorer health or physical development than “non-Catholics”. We suggested that those of Irish Catholic descent were at some disadvantage compared with the rest of the population, with respect to health as well as social class, 150 years after the start of the main migration.

Is Catholic disadvantage diminishing in the West of Scotland?
There is much debate about whether anti-Catholic discrimination and social disadvantage still exists in Scotland.  Over a decade between 1990 and 2000 we found some evidence of a narrowing gap between Catholic and non-Catholics in the youngest cohort of the Twenty-07 Study.  The widest inequalities were found in the eldest cohort.  During this period there were both increases in home and car ownership, in general, and non-manual jobs for young adults, with a faster increase among Catholics which may ultimately lead to a reduction in health disadvantage in future decades.

Catholic ill-health related to socioeconomic disadvantage
Using data from the Twenty-07 Study we estimated that about half of the morbidity excess amongst middle-aged Catholics living in the Glasgow area can be explained by socioeconomic disadvantage.

Accounting for Catholic ill-health in Scotland
Greater health-threatening stress, obstacles to career progression, within mainly private-sector organisations, and difficulties interacting with work colleagues or superiors created potential problems for mainly middle-class Catholic men, whereas younger Catholics appeared to overcome obstacles through education. We suggest restrictions in the social mobility among Catholics result from ‘institutional sectarianism’ rather than Catholic abilities or cultural factors.

Is health disadvantage linked to ‘stereotypically Irish behaviours’?
There is no evidence to support the belief that Irish Catholic stereotypes of smoking and excessive drinking or greater tolerance to illness, are an explanation for long-term illness in Irish Catholic communities.  

Irish decent, religion and food consumption
Irish Catholic descent had poorer diets, eating less fruit and vegetables, and more processed snacks and foods, compared to non-Catholics. 

Summary papers...

South Asian health

Do measures of mental stress among UK South Asians under-estimate their association with poor health?
A clinically valid measure of mental stress was found to potentially underestimate mental stress in several South Asian groups when compared to self-report and psychosomatic measures. Clinical measures may not be sensitive to cultural language differences or the types of stressful experiences encountered and hence studies may have previously incorrectly ruled out mental stress as a risk factor for heart disease in this population. 

Stressful experiences affecting the mental health of South Asians living in Glasgow
The higher rates of stress found among women, Muslims and limited English speakers could be explained by the types of stressful situations they experience such as low income, lack of social support and fear of personal attack.

Diet, stress and heart disease risk among British South Asians
High rates of heart disease in South Asians are likely to result from a complex interaction of multiple risk factors including poor diet, diabetes, and lack of social support, low income, crowded housing and fear of assault. 

How does the health of the South Asian community in Glasgow compare with that of the Glasgow population in general?
South Asians were consistently shorter and broader than the general population.  Otherwise, differences in health between South Asians and the general population were balanced, except for the poorer health of South Asian women compared to their male counterparts, which was greater than the health gap between men and women in the general population. 

Summary papers...