Study: Discrimination contributes to health problems for foreigners in Finland

Foreign migrants are much less likely to go to the doctor for medial help or occupational therapy than the general population.

File picture showing interior of Töölö Hospital, Helsinki / Credit: News Now Finland

A new study carried out by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL finds that discrimination can be a major contributing factor for medical problems of foreigners in Finland.

According to the research the experiences of being discriminated against were particularly negative for the health and well-being of immigrants with 40% of men and 37% of women reporting discrimination during the past year. In addition, women reported instances of insecurity that threatened their well-being.

Foreigners are also less likely to go to the doctor, or to seek occupational health assistance, than the rest of the population, according to the new study.

“Lack of confidence in access to care can be one of the barriers to seeking treatment” says Hannamaria Kuusio, Research Manager at THL.

“There is slightly less trust in access to healthcare than in the general population. Of course, there may be many other reasons behind this, such as customer fees, ignorance of care facilities, experiences of unfair treatment or long queues especially for basic services” she explains.

People from the Middle East and North Africa in particular have problems accessing healthcare treatment when they come to Finland, the report finds.

What are some of the main health issues affecting foreigners?

The new THL research, the most comprehensive survey looking specifically at the experiences of Finland’s foreign-born residents, identified some of the main health issues.

Among migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, diabetes, depression and mental health problems were reported more frequently than among the general population or migrants from other backgrounds.

They are also more likely to suffer from insomnia or have nightmares, and in addition, 20% of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa experience loneliness and are more often deprived of support from their loved ones compared to the rest of the population.

“The threshold for seeking treatment should be lowered, and access to basic services should be lowered. Diseases and social problems should be treated as early as possible” says Anna Seppänen from THL.

“Well-being and the important factors that affect it seem to vary by origin. This means that not everyone living in Finland has equal opportunities to maintain their health and well-being” she adds.