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The ‘healthy immigrant’ effect: initial evidence for Ireland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2011

Anne Nolan*
Social Research Division, Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin, Ireland; Department of Economics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
*Correspondence to: Anne Nolan, Social Research Division, Economic and Social Research Institute, Whitaker Square, Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin 2, Ireland. Email:


The period from 1996 to 2008 was one of rapid economic and social change in Ireland, with one of the most significant changes being the transition from a situation of net emigration to one of substantial net immigration. Although research on the impact of immigration on Irish society, as well as the labour market characteristics and experiences of immigrants in Ireland has increased in recent years, comparatively little is known about the health status of immigrants to Ireland. An extensive international literature has documented a ‘healthy immigrant’ effect for large immigrant-receiving countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia, whereby the health status of immigrants is better than comparable native-born individuals. There is also evidence to suggest that immigrants’ health status deteriorates with time spent in the host country. However, the Irish immigration experience differs considerably from that of countries that have been the focus of research on the ‘healthy immigrant’ effect. Using microdata from a nationally representative survey of the population in 2007, this paper finds only limited evidence in favour of a ‘healthy immigrant’ effect for Ireland, although the distinctive features of the Irish immigrant population, and the nature of the data available, may partly explain the results.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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