Vitamin D deficiency in a multinational refugee population

Intern Med J. 2007 Dec;37(12):792-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-5994.2007.01385.x. Epub 2007 May 21.


Background: Populations with increased skin pigmentation who have migrated to countries of high latitude are at increased risk of low vitamin D. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of low vitamin D among the refugee population arriving in New Zealand.

Methods: An audit of all refugees arriving at the national refugee resettlement centre from May 2004 to May 2005 was carried out. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels were measured and defined as normal (50-150 nmol/L) or low, with low subdivided into insufficient (25 to <50 nmol/L) and deficient (<25 nmol/L). Whether vitamin D status varied with age and sex was determined.

Results: Vitamin D was measured in 869 (99%) of the refugees and was low in 470 (54%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 51-57%). It was insufficient in 323 (37%, 95%CI 34-41%) and deficient in 147 (17%, 95%CI 15-20%). Female sex was associated with at least a 10 times increased risk of vitamin D deficiency (relative ratio 13.93, 95%CI 10.15-17.96). Women aged between 17 and 45 years and men aged 46 years and more were at greatest risk.

Conclusion: Poor vitamin D status is prevalent among refugees arriving in New Zealand. Women, particularly those of child-bearing age are at greatest risk. Screening and ongoing surveillance for vitamin D deficiency should be considered for all recent refugee immigrants to New Zealand.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Calcifediol / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Refugees*
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / ethnology*


  • Calcifediol