This study examined the relationship between social mobility and self-reported limiting long-term illness (LLTI) in West Indian and South Asian migrants in England and Wales present at the 1971, 1981 and 1991 Censuses in the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study. Most people remained in the same social position regardless of migrant status and those who remained most disadvantaged reported more LLTI than those who remained least disadvantaged. Amongst those who were mobile, upward mobility was more common than downward mobility for South Asians and West Indians but not for all other study members. The findings for the impact of downward mobility on LLTI were particularly striking. Migrants who were downwardly mobile reported more LLTI than all other study members. All other study members who were downwardly mobile reported more LLTI than people who remained in the least disadvantaged group they left but less than those who remained in the most disadvantaged group they joined. Downwardly mobile South Asians reported more LLTI than those of the least disadvantaged group but this was not significantly different from the most disadvantaged group they joined. Downwardly mobile West Indians reported also more LLTI than the least disadvantaged group they left but, in contrast, to the South Asians this appeared to be more than that of the disadvantaged group they joined. Empirical studies are needed to understand the context of social mobility and how this affects health-related behaviours and specific diseases among migrants. In a situation where migrants do not have established economic or social support, the loss of resources or self-esteem could have a disproportionate negative effect on their health.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.