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Soc Sci Med. 1997 Jul;45(1):3-14.

Morbidity and Irish Catholic descent in Britain: an ethnic and religious minority 150 years on.

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  • 1MRC Medical Sociology Unit, Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.


Ethnic and religious minorities often suffer disadvantages both in socio-economic status and in health. Data from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 study suggest some differences in morbidity between those descended from Irish Catholic migrants of the great emigration from 1840 onwards and others. Catholic religion of at least one parent or at birth is used here as a proxy measure to indicate Irish Catholic descent, on the basis of estimates of sensitivity and specificity in the local area. Higher proportions of "Catholics" are in manual social classes. Differences between "Catholics" and "non-Catholics" in one or more age cohorts are observed for the following aspects of health and physical development: general and physical health (self-assessed health, number of symptoms, accidents), psychological distress (depression, anxiety, number of psychosomatic symptoms), impairments and disabilities (sight, hearing, wearing dentures, disability), and physical measures (height, waist-to-hip ratio, lung function). Furthermore, for all aspects except hearing, wearing dentures and number of psychosomatic symptoms, significant differences remain after accounting for sex and social class. For each measure where a difference is observed, it is those respondents with a Catholic parent or who were born Catholic who experience poorer health or physical development. This suggests that those of Irish Catholic descent are at some disadvantage compared with the rest of the population, with respect to health as well as social class, 150 years after the start of the main migration.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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