Migrants' utilization of somatic healthcare services in Europe--a systematic review

Eur J Public Health. 2010 Oct;20(5):555-63. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckp195. Epub 2009 Dec 29.


Background: Utilization of services is an important aspect of migrants' access to healthcare. The aim was to review the European literature on utilization of somatic healthcare services related to screening, general practitioner, specialist, emergency room and hospital by adult first-generation migrants. Our study question was: 'Are there differences in migrants' utilization of somatic healthcare services compared to non-migrants?'

Methods: Publications were identified by a systematic search of PUBMED and EMBASE. Appropriateness of the studies was judged independently by two researchers based on the abstracts. Additional searches were conducted via the references of the selected articles. The final number of studies included was 21.

Results: The results suggested a diverging picture regarding utilization of somatic healthcare services by migrants compared to non-migrants in Europe. Overall, migrants tended to have lower attendance and referral rates to mammography and cervical cancer screening, more contacts per patient to general practitioner but less use of consultation by telephone, and same or higher level of use of specialist care as compared to non-migrants. Emergency room utilization showed both higher, equal and lower levels of utilization for migrants compared to non-migrants, whereas hospitalization rates were higher than or equal to non-migrants.

Conclusion: Our review illustrates lack of appropriate epidemiological data and diversity in the categorization of migrants between studies, which makes valid cross-country comparisons most challenging. After adjusting for socio-economic factors and health status, the existing studies still show systematic variations in somatic healthcare utilization between migrants and non-migrants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*