A social and demographic study of Tibetan refugees in India

Soc Sci Med. 2002 Feb;54(3):411-22. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(01)00040-5.


The social and demographic characteristics of approximately 65,000 Tibetan refugees in India were determined from data collected 1994-1996. Approximately 55,000 refugees were living in 37 settlements widely distributed around India. The remaining 10,000 refugees were monks living in monasteries associated with some of the settlements, mostly in the south of India. In the settlements, a community-based surveillance system was established and data were collected by trained community health workers in house to house visits. In the monasteries, data were collected by the community health workers in monthly interviews with a designated liaison monk at each monastery. These data indicated little immigration of new civilian refugees in the past 10 years into the settlements but a steady influx of new monks into the monasteries. The age distribution in the settlements showed a prominent mode in the 15-25 year age range, a declining birth rate, and an increasing proportion of elderly. In general, refugees born in India were educated through secondary school, while refugees born in Tibet were often illiterate. The principle occupations were education involving 27% (including students), farming, 16%. and sweater selling, 6.5%; another 6.5% were too young or too old for employment, and only 2.4% were unemployed. The overall crude birth rate was determined to be relatively low at 16.8/1000. although this may underestimate the true figure. Infant mortality varied from 20 to 35/1000 live births in the different regions. Child vaccination programs cover less than 50% of the population. The burden of illness in this society was mainly characterized by diarrhoea. skin infections, respiratory infections, fevers, and, among the elderly. joint pains and cardiovascular problems. Although calculated death rates were unrealistically low, due to under-reporting, causes of death, derived from "verbal autopsies", were mainly cancer, tuberculosis, accidents, cirrhosis and heart disease in order of decreasing frequency. Overall, the sociodemographic and health characteristics of this population appear to be in transition from those typical of the least developed countries to those typical of middle income and more affluent societies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clergy / statistics & numerical data
  • Demography*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Language
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations / classification
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Refugees / classification*
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data
  • Tibet / ethnology