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Aust Fam Physician. 2007 May;36(5):355-7.

Hiding from the sun - vitamin D deficiency in refugees.

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  • 1Health in Human Diversity Unit, Discipline of General Practice, University of Adelaide, South Australia.



It has been well established that women who wear a veil for cultural reasons and dark skinned migrants from Africa have an increased prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. Many refugee patients also come from countries where their skin is covered or they are indoors for most of the day.


This article explores the risk, diagnosis and management of vitamin D deficiency in the Australian refugee population.


In 2004-2005, 75% of the 7000 refugees settling in Australia were from African countries and 20% were from the Middle East. Refugees may be exposed to less sunlight in Australia than in their country of origin because of an indoor lifestyle or an increased latitude. Refugee health centres confirm that vitamin D deficiency is present in 40-80% of refugee patients. Importantly, this is often asymptomatic. General practitioners are encouraged to test for vitamin D deficiency in refugees, especially as part of the initial health assessment.

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