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Numbers of immigrant elders are increasing and it is unclear whether they can access services.
To examine service utilisation of older immigrants compared with their UK-born counterparts and relate it to health difficulties.
Cross-sectional study in inner London measuring service use, mental health and disability.
A total of 1085 people aged ⩾65 years were interviewed. Independent predictors of contact with a general practitioner included being born in Cyprus. Cypriots were the only immigrant population to report significantly more somatic symptoms than those born in the UK (P=0.005). Africans and Caribbeans used daycare and other social services most frequently.
Immigrants could access services. Africans and Caribbeans appear to have poorer physical health and thus have greater contact with services. Cypriots who experience depression may present with prominent somatic symptoms. This is likely to be due to a different idiom of distress.
In the UK, 6% of those aged 65 years and over were born abroad, most of whom now live in inner-city areas. It has been suggested that ethnic elders are particularly vulnerable to mental illness.
To compare the prevalence of dementia and depression in older migrants with those born in the UK.
A cross-sectional community study of 1085 people aged 65 years or older in an inner-London borough.
Compared with those born in the UK, the prevalence of dementia was raised in African–Caribbeans (17.3%, relative risk=1.72, Cl=1.06–2.81) and lower for the Irish-born (3.6%, relative risk=0.36, Cl=0.17–0.87). All those of African–Caribbean country of birth were significantly younger (P=0.000) but no more likely to be taking antihypertensive drugs. They were no more likely to report having cardiovascular problems but had increased rates of diabetes (P < 0.0000). The overall prevalence of depression was 18.3% (95% Cl=16.1–20.7). The highest prevalence rate was found among those born in Greece and Turkey (27.2%, Cl=179–39.6). Migration per se does not appear to be a risk for depression and dementia in this population.
The excess of dementia may be of vascular aetiology. There is the potential for primary or secondary prevention.
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