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Graziella Caselli, Silvia Loi and Salvatore Strozza

Since the late 1970s, Italy has become a country of immigration after being one of the main European countries of emigration for more than a century. Notwithstanding the significant growth of the foreign population, there is limited knowledge on the health conditions and mortality levels of immigrants, and no information is available on refugees and asylum seekers. The authors rely on a variety of data sources including regional based surveys and studies, administrative records, and hospital data to form a picture of the health condition of immigrants in Italy. Based on the evidence assembled, it is found that, similar to other studies based on the experience of other countries, in Italy the health status of foreigners seems to be better than that of the Italian population. However, as is often noted in the literature, over time this advantage is reduced, changing toward convergence with the host population. It is suggested that in future research the mortality of foreigners needs to be examined with reference to the various nationalities, as these bring with them different social and cultural life histories, and, above all, different lifestyles and work histories, which have an important role in determining the various risks of disease and death.