Sweden's minorities struggle with health

Paul O'Mahony
Paul O'Mahony - [email protected]
Sweden's minorities struggle with health

Sweden's minorities have more health problems than the population as a whole, according to a new study examining the respective health situations of the country's Jews, Romanies, Sweden Finns, Sami and Tornedalians.


In its study findings, the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsoinstitutet) shows that high unemployment, a sense of exclusion, powerlessness and discrimination all contributed to the relatively poor health of Sweden's minority populations.

Sweden's 20,000 strong Romany population reported problems with high alcohol consumption, primarily among men and young people. They also viewed gambling and pill addictions, as well as drug abuse, as growing problems. Romany women meanwhile said they were under a lot of stress, mainly as a result of high levels of work carried out in the home.

The country's indigenous Sami population displays similar health conditions to the wider population in terms of life expectancy. But there are significant differences between the 2,500 reindeer herding Sami and their 20,000 non-reindeer herding counterparts, with the former running an increased risk of workplace accidents and suicide.

Sweden Finns, a group made up of some 450,000 first- and second-generation Finns living in Sweden, are in worse physical condition than the majority population, while psychological problems are more common among men in this group than in the population at large. Sweden Finns are also heavier smokers and financially less well off than the rest of the population.

Tornedalians are in slightly worse physical health than the population as a whole. The 50,000 Torne Valley natives who speak the Meänkieli dialect are also less physically active, less involved in social affairs and more financially vulnerable than the majority population.

Jews on the other hand are in better physical, mental and financial shape than the population at large. The country's 25,000 Jews also showed a higher level of social participation than the wider population. Male Jews did however report levels of discrimination that were above the norm.

The public health agency said it would now continue working with organizations representing national minorities, and would help them to draft proposals geared towards improving their health situation before filing a full final report.


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