Self reported skin morbidity and ethnicity: a population-based study in a Western community

BMC Dermatol. 2007 Jun 29:7:4. doi: 10.1186/1471-5945-7-4.


Background: Recent studies have shown ethnic differences concerning cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and mental health. Little is known about ethnic differences in skin morbidity. The purpose of this study was to describe possible ethnic differences in self-reported skin morbidity in a Western urban community.

Methods: The design was cross sectional. 40,888 adults in Oslo, Norway, received a postal questionnaire providing information on socio-demographic factors and self-reported health, including items on skin complaints.

Results: 18,770 individuals answered the questionnaire. In the sample 84% were from Norway. The largest immigrant group was from Western countries (5%) and the Indian Subcontinent (3%). Itch was the most prevalent reported skin symptom (7%), and was significantly more reported by men from East Asia (18%) and Middle East/North Africa (13%). The same observations were seen for reported dry and sore skin. Hair loss was a dominating complaint for men from the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East/North Africa (23% and 25%) and for women from the same ethnic groups. Women from Sub-Saharan Africa reported significantly more pimples than in the other groups (17%).

Conclusion: The study showed that there were significant differences in self-reported skin complaints among ethnic groups. Issues concerning the cultural value of some skin symptoms should be examined further.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa, Northern / ethnology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypotrichosis / ethnology
  • India / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Middle East / ethnology
  • Morbidity
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Postal Service
  • Prevalence
  • Pruritus / ethnology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Skin Diseases / ethnology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • White People / statistics & numerical data