Do migrants have lower health literacy?

I’m happy to announce the publication of a study on COVID-19-related health literacy. We find that the health literacy of most migrants was just as well as that of the general population, but identify a group of socioeconomically vulnerable migrants with lower levels of health literacy. Nationality is the wrong approach to capture differences in health literacy.

Ruedin, Didier, Johanna Probst, Philippe Wanner, Denise Efionayi-Mäder, and Patrick Bodenmann. 2022. ‘COVID-19-Related Health Literacy of Socioeconomically Vulnerable Migrant Groups’. International Journal of Public Health. 67:1604664.

This research was commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.

Health Literacy of people with migration background in Germany

A new study from Germany examines health literacy of immigrants and their descendants. They focus on two specific groups: from the former Soviet Union, and from Turkey. They find that the health literacy of those examined does not differ substantially from the general German population. Lower levels of formal education, low social status, and older age are all associated with lower health literacy, equally for the general population and for the ‘migrants’.

They conclude that immigrants and their descendants should not all be called ‘vulnerable’, but look at the differences within the ‘migrant’ groups.

Interestingly, this report in Germany does not discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic much. Still, the results resonate what we have found in our recent study on Covid-19 related health literacy in Switzerland, where we used equivalent questions on health literacy. We also found that health literacy for ‘immigrants’ in Switzerland is similar to the general population, and we also found important differences within the ‘immigrant’ population. However, we could also show that there is a subgroup of socio-economically vulnerable ‘migrants’ who have noticeably lower levels of health literacy. We also identified increased vulnerability around the stability of the residence status as a central element, a factor related to being an ‘immigrant’.

Here’s a video summarizing our study.

Berens, E.-M., Klinger, J., Mensing, M., Carol, S., Schaeffer, D. (2022): Health Literacy of
people with migration background in Germany. Results of the HLS-MIG. Short Summary.
Bielefeld: Interdisciplinary Centre for Health Literacy Research (ICHL). Bielefeld University.

Probst, Johanna, Didier Ruedin, Denise Efionayi-Mäder, Patrick Bodenmann, and Philippe Wanner. 2021. Littératie en santé dans le contexte de la pandémie de covid-19 : focus sur la population migrante. SFM Studies. 78. Neuchâtel: Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies.