Limited Focus on the Use of Health Care by Elderly Migrants—A Literature Review


Our premise for this literature review is the global demographic change caused by the world’s population living longer and becoming older, and extensive international migration leading to multicultural societies. Increasing age leads to health problems, often long-term or chronic, requiring investments in health care. Worse health and dissimilarities in pattern of morbidity/ mortality have been found in foreign-compared to Swedish-born persons, so it is reasonable to assume that this affects use of health care. The exploratory review focuses on elderly migrants’ (>65 years) use of healthcare. The databases Pub Med, EBSCO, CINAHL and ERIC were searched in 2000-2013. A limited number of studies were found; few had a comparative approach, most were from the USA, and focused on migrants from the former Soviet Union or countries in South-East Asia. A range of factors were identified that influence patterns of health care use: language fluency, ability to communicate, self-reported health status, prevalence of chronic disease, physical distance from care provision, availability of transport to reach care, cost of care, the health insurance system, cultural norms and values regarding different forms of care, level of education, and length of residence in the host country. Most studies treated health care from a general perspective and collected data from community and hospital settings, without analysing usage separately. Some studies indicated elderly migrants making use of health care less than other groups but the pattern is not unambiguous: other studies show that there is an overuse of health care. It is therefore difficult to show any particular pattern, or possible differences in use, regarding community versus in-patient care. Studies focusing on migrants’ actual use of health care are few and further research is needed, especially because elderly people form the largest group of users of health care and will be even larger in the future.

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Hjelm, K. and Albin, B. (2014) Limited Focus on the Use of Health Care by Elderly Migrants—A Literature Review. Open Journal of Nursing, 4, 465-473. doi: 10.4236/ojn.2014.46049.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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