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The health of migrants in the UK and their access to healthcare is of considerable policy interest. There is evidence of ethnic inequalities in health and access to and use of healthcare but insufficient consideration of the importance of birth abroad and length of residence in the UK. This study examines indicators of health status, behaviour and healthcare use among mothers of infants in the Millennium Cohort Study, according to whether born in the UK or abroad, individual ethnic grouping, and length of residence. Our findings show there are both positive and negative health indicators associated with ethnicity, birth abroad, and length of residence and presenting results on a single factor in isolation could lead to a misinterpretation of associations. For mothers ethnicity has an important relationship with most health indicators independent of country of birth, length of residence and socio-demographic circumstances. Once adjusted for ethnicity and socio-demographic variables, association with birth abroad disappears for most health outcomes suggesting that there may not be an independent migrant penalty in health. There is a linear trend in decreasing health status with increasing length of residence but no independent association between length of residence and healthcare use. This suggests that while there are continuing barriers to good health for migrants in the receiving society as shown in other studies, factors important for one health outcome may not apply to another. Our findings challenge linear acculturation models for migrants' health in showing that a linear trend in improving socio-economic circumstances for mothers in some ethnic groups is not always associated with better health outcomes or changes in health behaviour. Our results point to a need for a comprehensive collection of information and analysis for all categories of migrants for understanding patterns of and factors underlying health and use of healthcare.

Original publication




Journal article


Soc Sci Med

Publication Date





1002 - 1010


Acculturation, Cohort Studies, Delivery of Health Care, Female, Health Behavior, Health Services Accessibility, Health Status, Health Status Indicators, Humans, Linear Models, Mothers, Time Factors, Transients and Migrants, United Kingdom