Immigration as a social determinant of health

Annu Rev Public Health. 2015 Mar 18:36:375-92. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032013-182419. Epub 2014 Dec 10.


Although immigration and immigrant populations have become increasingly important foci in public health research and practice, a social determinants of health approach has seldom been applied in this area. Global patterns of morbidity and mortality follow inequities rooted in societal, political, and economic conditions produced and reproduced by social structures, policies, and institutions. The lack of dialogue between these two profoundly related phenomena-social determinants of health and immigration-has resulted in missed opportunities for public health research, practice, and policy work. In this article, we discuss primary frameworks used in recent public health literature on the health of immigrant populations, note gaps in this literature, and argue for a broader examination of immigration as both socially determined and a social determinant of health. We discuss priorities for future research and policy to understand more fully and respond appropriately to the health of the populations affected by this global phenomenon.

Keywords: immigrant health; immigration; migrant health; social determinants of health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Global Health
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • Social Determinants of Health*