Aging Among Immigrants in Italy: An Analysis of Health Conditions

Emanuela Furfaro, Unicatt
Alessandro Rosina, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Maria Chiara Zanarotti, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

In developed countries, population age structure has been reshaping with a shift of relative weight from younger to older groups. In addition to severe population aging, throughout the last decades Italy has witnessed a significant increase in immigration that helped coping with the lack of young Italians, mainly in low-skill jobs, and with elderly care. However, immigrant population will itself grow older with implications on retirement and pensions, as well as on health and on the planning of public health system expenditures. In literature, the comparison between health conditions of native and immigrant population is one of the most debated topics. Using data from the first national survey on Social Condition and Integration of Foreign Citizens, carried out in 2011-2012 by the Italian Institute of Statistics, this contribute focuses on aging of immigrants in Italy with a comparison with native Italians. We consider people aged 50 and above and we consider health status as measured by both subjective and objective indicators, controlling for structural variables such as gender, country of origin, age of immigration and social status.

Aging and immigration are two important demographic changes that have been reshaping modern societies with a large impact on both economic and political decisions.

These two phenomena are somehow connected. In developed countries the age structure of the population, characterized by a shift toward older ages, is causing a shrinkage in the size of working age population and a lack of people to be employed for aged care. Hence foreign population may help coping both with the shortage of young Italians, mainly to be employed in low-skill jobs, and with elder care. This is particularly evident in Italy, where the severe aging process is coupled with the lack of elder care services.

Throughout the last decades Italy has witnessed, in addition to severe population aging, a significant increase in immigration: the foreign resident population has increased from 356 thousands in 1991 to 1 million and 334 thousand in 2001 and over 4 million in 2011. In 2016 over 5 million foreign residents lived in Italy, corresponding to over 8% of the whole population and 15% of the working age population. With regards to the population aging, in Italy 22% of the population is composed by people aged 65 and above as compared to the European average which is 19.2%. Under 30 population in Italy is less than 29% as compared to the European average which is 33% (Istat 2017). The average age of the natives is 45,7 years, while immigrants’ is 33,6; moreover people aged 65 and above are 22% among the Italians and less than 3% among foreigners (Istat 2017).

But immigrants also grow older. Data from the latest census, highlight how the percentage of foreigners aged 50 to 60 has grown, especially with regards to women.

In the years to come, aging of immigrants is hence going to attract growing interest. Implications of such phenomenon regard retirement and pension issues, as well as health issues and the planning of public health system expenditures. Although the selection effect of migratory flows tends to attract mainly young and healthy people, they may, due to adverse social and work conditions, experience a worse aging process as compared to locals. These reasons make the aging of immigrants an issue research should pay large attention to.

The comparison between health conditions of native and immigrant population is one of the most debated topics in literature. For instance, several studies have highlighted that the Hispanic population migrated to the United States, beside its social status, presents better health conditions than non immigrants with the same social status (the so called “Hispanic paradox”) (Cho et al., 2004; Palloni and Arias, 2004, Crimmins et al,, 2007). However, some authors found that as immigrants grow older, their health conditions tend to worsen more quickly (Jass et al., 2004, Ronellenfitsch and Razum, 2003). Moreover several studies deal with the aging of immigrants in Europe finding that they generally have worse health than the native population (Solè Aurò and Crimmins 2008,Lanari et al., 2015).

This contribute is focused on aging of immigrants in Italy. In particular, following Solè and Crimmins (Solè and Crimmins 2008), the purpose is to compare immigrants’ health status with that of the natives using data from Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT). The growing number of foreign residents has in fact led ISTAT to undertake the first national survey on Social Condition and Integration of Foreign Citizens in 2011-2012 . We consider people aged 50 and above, that is 3116 foreigners out of the 20379 interviewed by ISTAT, and we compare immigrants health status with that of natives. We measure health status by means of a set of subjective and objective indicators and we analyze the relations between health and some relevant covariates such as gender, country of origin, age at immigration and social status.

References

Cho, Youngtae, et al. "Nativity, duration of residence, and the health of Hispanic adults in the United States." International Migration Review 38.1 (2004): 184-211.

Palloni, Alberto, and Elizabeth Arias. "Paradox lost: explaining the Hispanic adult mortality advantage." Demography 41.3 (2004): 385-415.

Crimmins, Eileen M., et al. "Hispanic paradox in biological risk profiles." American Journal of Public Health 97.7 (2007): 1305-1310.

ISTAT (2017), Bilancio demografico nazionale, Statistiche Report

Jass, Guillermina, and Douglas S. Massey. Immigrant health: selectivity and acculturation. No. 04/23. IFS Working Papers, Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), 2004.

Solé‐Auró, Aïda, and Eileen M. Crimmins. "Health of immigrants in European countries." International Migration Review 42.4 (2008): 861-876.

Lanari, D., O. Bussini, and L. Minelli. "Self-perceived health among Eastern European immigrants over 50 living in Western Europe." International journal of public health 60.1 (2015): 21-31.

Ronellenfitsch, Ulrich, and Oliver Razum. "Deteriorating health satisfaction among immigrants from Eastern Europe to Germany." International Journal for Equity in Health 3.1 (2004): 4.

Presented in Session 1234: Posters