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Life expectancy and mortality differences between migrant groups living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands


  • Uitenbroek, Daan G.
  • Verhoeff, Arnoud P.


There is an apparent contradiction between the high level of morbidity and the low level of mortality observed in certain groups of migrants living in Europe. This observation should have some consequences for health policy development and the targeting of resources in a city like Amsterdam. In this paper a number of hypotheses to explain the low mortality in migrant groups are discussed. An analysis is made of mortality in Amsterdam using data from the civil registry as to mortality according to age, sex and nationality group of the deceased. Standard demographic techniques such as the standardised mortality ratio (SMR) and life table analysis were employed. Life table analysis shows that life expectancy in Amsterdam is lowest among residents of Dutch descent (73.3Â yr for males and 79.1Â yr for females) and highest among those of Mediterranean origin (77.6Â yr for males and 86.1Â yr for females). This appears to contradict previous research based on the SMR, which showed high mortality in migrant groups. To find the cause of this contradiction, the SMR and risk ratios by age are studied. The conclusion of this paper is that on the basis of life table analysis it appears that some immigrant groups living in Amsterdam have a remarkably high life expectancy. Since the SMR is sensitive to demographic differences between groups compared, questions can be raised about previous studies using the SMR. It has been suggested that the high life expectancy in migrant groups is not really caused by good health but by 'spurious' phenomena, such as problems in mortality registration. However, in view of the available data it seems likely that some migrant groups do in fact have high life expectancy, although the morbidity in these groups can be quite high. These findings should inform health-related policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Uitenbroek, Daan G. & Verhoeff, Arnoud P., 2002. "Life expectancy and mortality differences between migrant groups living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(9), pages 1379-1388, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:54:y:2002:i:9:p:1379-1388

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:bla:intmig:v:51:y:2017:i:3:p:600-631 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:spr:ijphth:v:62:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s00038-017-0949-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Annelene Wengler, 2011. "The health status of first- and second-generation Turkish immigrants in Germany," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 56(5), pages 493-501, October.
    4. Antonio Fidalgo & Alberto Holly & Marco Pecoraro & Philippe Wanner, 2016. "A nonparametric analysis of the healthy immigrant effect," IRENE Working Papers 16-15, IRENE Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Wallace, Matthew & Kulu, Hill, 2014. "Low immigrant mortality in England and Wales: A data artefact?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 100-109.
    6. Rasulo, Domenica & Spadea, Teresa & Onorati, Roberta & Costa, Giuseppe, 2012. "The impact of migration in all-cause mortality: The Turin Longitudinal Study, 1971–2005," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(6), pages 897-906.
    7. Joan Costa-Font & Raphael Wittenberg & Concepció Patxot & Adelina Comas-Herrera & Cristiano Gori & Alessandra di Maio & Linda Pickard & Alessandro Pozzi & Heinz Rothgang, 2008. "Projecting Long-Term Care Expenditure in Four European Union Member States: The Influence of Demographic Scenarios," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 86(2), pages 303-321, April.
    8. Wallace, Matthew & Kulu, Hill, 2015. "Mortality among immigrants in England and Wales by major causes of death, 1971–2012: A longitudinal analysis of register-based data," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 209-221.
    9. Steven Kennedy & James Ted McDonald & Nicholas Biddle, 2006. "The Healthy Immigrant Effect and Immigrant Selection: Evidence from Four Countries," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 164, McMaster University.


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