Refugees' admission to mental health institutions in Norway: Is there an ethnic density effect?

Soc Sci Med. 2018 Jul;209:43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.05.029. Epub 2018 May 16.


Some recent European research claims that immigrants settle in urban areas with low scores on level-of-living conditions and a high prevalence of health-risk factors, and that these settlement patterns adversely affect their health. Other studies question the association between immigrant segregation and area deprivation on one hand, and negative health outcomes on the other hand, and identify possible beneficial effects of segregation, specifically the ethnic density effect. This paper aims to explore the possible ethnic density effect among refugees, a sub-population that often appears relatively vulnerable compared with immigrants in general. The data comprise 30 871 individuals, aged 20-69, with an (post-1989) officially registered refugee status from six major countries, including Vietnam, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Bosnia. Two outcomes are analysed, covering the 2008-2011 period - the probability of being admitted at least once to a mental health institution and the number of bed days during that period. The results show that all immigrant clusters have relatively high concentrations of negative level-of-living conditions. Despite this finding, refugees living in clusters tend to have less use of mental healthcare services. The results suggest that for most refugee groups, living in clusters has positive health outcomes. Many countries use settlement policies to direct the inflow of refugees away from immigrant-dense areas. Norway's settlement policy is no exception, aiming at a geographic dispersal of refugees to avoid the emergence of socially segregated urban ethnic communities. This paper discusses the relevance of such a policy for refugees' overall integration and level-of-living conditions.

Keywords: Ethnic density; Mental health; Refugees; Register analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult