The colonization of the circumpolar peoples has had a profound influence on their health. History tells about devastating epidemics and the introduction of alcohol. The last 50 years have witnessed an unprecedented societal development in Greenland and a rapid epidemiological transition. Physical health and survival have improved but at the expense of mental health. The incidence of tuberculosis and the infant mortality rate have decreased because of improved socioeconomic conditions and health care. Mental health has deteriorated parallel to the rapid modernization of Greenlandic society. Chronic diseases are on the increase due to changing life styles, and environmental pollution with mercury and persistent organic pollutants may pose a threat to future generations of Inuit.