Prevalence of Chronic Disease and Insurance Coverage Among Refugees in the United States

This study shows that, among new legal permanent residents in the U.S., refugees were significantly more likely to report chronic health problems than other immigrants, and half were uninsured.

Using the 2003 New Immigrant Survey (NIS) Adult Sample, a nationally representative, cross-sectional, self-reported survey of 8,573 immigrants, researchers examined data from 4,205 adult respondents between 16-64 years of age who had lived in the United States for at least one year prior to survey administration. The researchers further categorized these individuals as refugees (n=490) or non-refugees (n=3,715) before assessing the data using multivariable logistic regression.

Key Findings:

  • Refugees were older than other immigrants and lived in the United States for a shorter period of time, on average.
  • When compared to other immigrants, the odds of refugees rating their health status as fair or poor, and of having a chronic condition were higher. Specific conditions included arthritis, behavioral health problems, heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Additionally, refugees reporting greater pain that limited their usual activities.
  • Nearly 50 percent of both refugees and other immigrants reported being uninsured. Among refugees with chronic conditions, 46.5 percent reported being uninsured.

Additional studies are needed to further understand health status differences among refugees and other immigrants.