How Healthy are Migrants? Findings and Implications Drawn from the Study of Immigrants to Germany

Does migrating make you sick? In view of the large and increasing number of migrants worldwide, the question is relevant to any country migrants leave or enter – and that means just about every country in the world. People who migrate are taking a risk. They often travel long distances, frequently under difficult or dangerous circumstances. Upon arriving at their destination they are commonly disadvantaged from a socioeconomic perspective, often living and working, for example, under worse conditions than the non-migrant majority population. For this reason, migrants are exposed to greater health risks. Those particularly at risk are undocumented refugees and migrants without legal residence status (so-called "irregular" migrants). Migration, it seems, goes hand in glove with health risks and can make you sick.

On the other hand, migrants are especially active and courageous people who want to determine their own lives. They are mostly young, and their health is above average compared with the population in their country of origin. If they are going from a poorer, developing country to a richer, developed country, they can benefit from improved hygiene conditions and better health care. Therefore, compared with the population in their home country, it seems that migrants have vastly improved health prospects.

"Migration makes you sick; migration improves your health prospects". The current debate on "migration and health" moves between these two opposing elements. Given the highly heterogeneous nature of migrants as a group, a still unsatisfactory situation as far as data is concerned, and a lack of theoretical models for the evaluation of migrant health, resolving this contradiction is going to take time. The aims of this policy brief are to illustrate the current state of debate on the health of migrants and its determinants, and to demonstrate the obstacles that lie in the way of health care for migrants. (Published 04/2009)

Migranten sind häufig in sozioökonomischer Hinsicht benachteiligt. Sie wohnen und arbeiten beispielsweise oft unter schlechteren Bedingungen als die nicht migrierte Mehrheitsbevölkerung.

Oliver Razum, Jacob Spallek

Definition of Migration and of Migrants

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees defines migration in the following way: "Migration occurs when a person changes the location of their usual place of residence. International migration occurs when this movement crosses national boundaries."

Mehr lesen

Die Rumänin Cornelia und ihr Sohn David Emanuel warten am 14.06.2013 im Wartezimmer der Malteser Migranten Medizin in Berlin.

The Health Status of Migrants - Selected Empirical Results

The range of illnesses suffered by people with a migration background in Germany resembles to a large extent that of the non-migrant majority population (with the exception of some rare hereditary metabolic disorders suffered by migrants).

Mehr lesen

Die Vietnamesin Xuan wartet mit ihrer einjährigen Tochter Mai Anh am 11.06.2013 im Wartezimmer der Malteser Migranten Medizin in Berlin.

Preventive Measures for Migrants

Migrants have special requirements in terms of preventive measures and health precautions. This is due on the one hand to their partly differing health risks and the group's behaviour patterns with regard to health matters.

Mehr lesen

Die Bulgaren Sevdalin und seine schwangere Frau Julia kommen am 11.06.2013 zu der Station der Malteser Migranten Medizin in Berlin.

Explaining The Relationship Between Migration and Health

Studies of the connection between migration and health are often unsatisfactory because of the lack of explicitly-formulated explanatory models. Determinants of disease and health in male and female migrants frequently go unmentioned, making systematic study more difficult.

Mehr lesen

Oliver Razum, Jacob Spallek


The examples put forward here show how difficult it can be to judge the differences in morbidity and mortality between migrants and the majority population in the migrants' country of destination.

Mehr lesen

How Healthy are Migrants?

References and Further Reading

Here you can find a list of references as well as further reading for the policy brief "How Healthy are Migrants" by Oliver Razum and Jacob Spallek.

Mehr lesen



Länderprofile Migration: Daten - Geschichte - Politik

Ein Länderprofil enthält Informationen über Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl sowie Integration in einem bestimmten Land. Diese Informationen bestehen aus: Daten und Statistiken, Geschichtlichen Entwicklungen, Rechtlichen und politischen Maßnahmen, Aktuellen Debatten in den Ländern.

Mehr lesen


Zahlen zu Asyl in Deutschland

Wie viele Menschen suchen in Deutschland Asyl? Woher kommen sie? Wie viele Asylanträge sind erfolgreich? Und wie viele Menschen werden abgeschoben? Wir stellen die wichtigsten Zahlen zum Thema Asyl und Flucht monatlich aktualisiert in einfachen Infografiken dar.

Mehr lesen