Sunday 9/20/20

Why are foreigners less likely to visit a doctor than Finns?

Experts point to the lack of confidence in the system as one of the elements that discourage people of foreign origin when they need to seek help in the face of a disease.

Why are foreigners less likely to visit a doctor than Finns?

Foreigners visit doctors or nurses less frequently compared to the entire population, according to a recent study by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL, in its Finnish acronym). Similarly, the share of people receiving occupational health care is also "significantly lower" among people with foreign background.

Those are some of the most striking conclusions of FinMonik 2018-2019, the most extensive survey so far carried out among the population with foreign background born abroad and living in Finland.

Experts point to the lack of confidence in the system as one of the elements that discourage people of foreign origin when they need to seek help in the face of a disease.

“The lack of confidence in access to care can be one of the barriers to seeking treatment. There is slightly less trust in access to care than among the whole population. Of course, there are many other reasons behind this, such as customer fees, ignorance of care facilities, experiences of unfair treatment, or long queues especially for basic services, ” emphasizes Hannamaria Kuusio, Research Manager at THL.

The study highlights that problems accessing treatment are particularly common among those from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA countries). Among this segment of the population, only less than 25% say they always get an appointment when needed and just a third felt the examinations were completed quickly enough.

Diabetes and mental health problems

Depression, diabetes and mental health problems were reported more frequently among migrants from the Middle East and North Africa than by other background groups and the general population. The study emphasized that this is one of the groups in which forced migration is common.

People from MENA countries are also more likely to suffer disorders such as insomnia, nightmares and feelings of loneliness compared to the whole population. These immigrants are also more often deprived of the support of 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 Hannamaria Kuusio.

Other background groups included Russia and the former Soviet Union, Estonia, the rest of Africa, Asia, the EU, North America and the EFTA, and other countries.

Foreigners drink less alcohol

The study collected information on the well-being, health, use of services and experiences of the adult population (18-64 years old) of foreign background. FinSote 2018 data were used as the reference data for the FinMonik study. 

In many areas, the research provided positive findings on health, welfare and inclusion of the adult population with foreign background in Finland. Most of the respondents reported having at least one friend and keeping in touch with their loved ones, and also receiving help from them if needed.

The majority of the respondents perceived themselves as having a full ability to work. The population with foreign background clearly consumed alcohol less frequently and in smaller amounts at a time compared to the entire population

The research was funded by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy (TEM), the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the City of Espoo.

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