Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics

Scots born abroad have lower death rates

People from most ethnic groups who were born abroad but live in Scotland have lower death rates than those born here, a study has found.

Chinese people have the lowest death rates, followed by people from Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups. 

Death records

Researchers led by the University of Edinburgh looked at anonymised census data from 4.62 million people living in Scotland in 2001, noting the ethnic group and country of birth. This information was securely linked to death records of those who died between 2001 and 2013.

Ethnic groups

They found that both males and females in most ethnic minority groups had lower death rates than the White Scottish population.

Death rates for Chinese males of all ages, for example, were almost half those of the White Scottish population.

Survival advantage

People who identify as Other British or Other White also had a survival advantage, the study found.

White Scottish people born abroad also had lower death rates than those born in Scotland. 

In contrast, White Irish men had similar death rates. Males of Mixed Background had slightly higher death rates.

Many people are surprised to learn that ethnic minority populations, and particularly those born abroad, have lower mortality than the Scottish population. The findings contradict the widely held perception that immigrants and ethnic minorities are a burden on the health and health care of our society.

Professor Raj BhopalUsher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics

Healthy behaviour

The effects were similar even when the researchers took into account socio-economic status.

Differences in health-related behaviours could be a key reason for the trend, the researchers say.

Scottish Health and Ethnicity Linkage Study

The findings are part of the Scottish Health and Ethnicity Linkage Study, which aims to improve the future health status of all populations in Scotland.

The study, in collaboration with the Universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow and with NHS National Services Scotland’s Information Services Division, is published in the journal PLOS Medicine. It was funded by the Scottish Chief Scientist’s Office and supported by NHS Health Scotland.

World Congress

The first World Congress on Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Health will be held in Edinburgh in May. Leading experts will discuss research to tackle health inequalities across the globe.

Related links

Journal article

World Congress on Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Health

Scottish Health and Ethnicity Linkage Study

Edinburgh Medical School