There are clear differences in the health and well-being of first-generation young immigrants when compared to young people in the general population or other young people with immigrant backgrounds. First-generation young immigrants find the school work environment poorer than other young people, and they have more difficulties with studies than others. They feel less often other young people that they get support for problems with school or studies.
The School Health Promotion Study, carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), enabled in 2013 for the first time a separate wide-ranging and comprehensive analysis of the health and well-being of young people with immigrant backgrounds in Finland. By first-generation immigrants we mean here young people who were born abroad and whose parents, likewise, were born abroad.
First-generation young immigrants perceive more difficulties in accessing pupil welfare services than other young people. “Schools should ensure that young people with immigrant backgrounds and their families know about the different kinds of services and support available in schools and pupil welfare. They should also try to encourage young people with immigrant backgrounds to trust more in the service providers,” says Researcher Anni Matikka.
Young immigrants are a heterogeneous group
Lack of close friends was more common among first-generation young immigrants than among other young people. Falling victim to bullying, physical threats and sexual violence was also more common among first-generation young immigrants compared to other young people. First-generation young immigrants reported poorer health, were tired and had symptoms more often than other young people. Even anxiety and school fatigue were more common among them. They also smoked, drank alcohol and experimented with drugs more commonly than other young people.
The number of people of foreign origin in Finland is four times higher and the number of people whose main language is not Finnish or Swedish is ten times higher than in 1990. Children account for a fifth of all those whose main language is not Finnish or Swedish. So far there as been very little information about the health and well-being of children and young people with immigrant backgrounds. “The report now released shows that young immigrants are a heterogeneous group, and not all young immigrants need help. However, there are young immigrants who are facing several challenges in their health and well-being, and therefore these individuals need special support,” continues Matikka.
The report discusses the 2013 School Health Promotion Study responses by pupils in their 8th and 9th year of comprehensive school. The findings are presented in four categories by the respondent’s and his/her parents’ native country: general population (n=86 065), children in multicultural families (n=5972), second-generation immigrants (n=1641), and first-generation immigrants (n=2784).