Healthcare utilization among migrants to the UK: cross-sectional analysis of two national surveys

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Journal of Health Services Research & Policy


Catherine L. Saunders, Adam Steventon, Barbara Janta, Mai Stafford, Carol Sinnott, Lucinda Allen and Sarah R. Deeny

Publication date


To contribute objective evidence on health care utilization among migrants to the UK to inform policy and service planning.
We analysed data from Understanding Society, a household survey with fieldwork from 2015 to 2017, and the European Health Interview Survey with data collected between 2013 and 2014. We explored health service utilization among migrants to the UK across primary care, inpatient admissions and maternity care, outpatient care, mental health, dental care and physiotherapy. We adjusted for age, sex, long-term health conditions and time since moving to the UK.
Health care utilization among migrants to the UK was lower than utilization among the UK-born population for all health care dimensions except inpatient admissions for childbirth; odds ratio (95%CI) range 0.58 (0.50–0.68) for dental care to 0.88 (0.78–0.98) for primary care). After adjusting for differences in age and self-reported health, these differences were no longer observed, except for dental care (odds ratio 0.57, 95%CI 0.49–0.66, P < 0.001). Across primary care, outpatient and inpatient care, utilization was lower among those who had recently migrated, increasing to the levels of the nonmigrant population after 10 years or more since migrating to the UK.
This study finds that newly arrived migrants tend to utilize less health care than the UK population and that this pattern was at least partly explained by better health, and younger age. Our findings contribute nationally representative evidence to inform public debate and decision-making on migration and health.





Migration, Public Policy and Health


Open Access; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (; Online Early