University of Oulu

Salama, E., Niemelä, S., Suvisaari, J., Laatikainen, T., Koponen, P., Castaneda, A. (2018) The prevalence of substance use among Russian, Somali and Kurdish migrants in Finland: a population-based study. BMC Public Health, 18 (1), 651. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5564-9

The prevalence of substance use among Russian, Somali and Kurdish migrants in Finland : a population-based study

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Author: Salama, Essi1,2; Niemelä, Solja3,4; Suvisaari, Jaana5;
Organizations: 1Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Turku
2Department of Child Psychiatry, Turku University Hospital and University of Turku
3Research Unit of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oulu
4Department of Psychiatry, University of Turku
5National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
6Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland
7Joint municipal authority for North Karelia social and health services
8Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-08-10


Background: Substance use is a well-known public health problem, but population-based research on migrants’ substance use in Europe is limited. Factors related to the cultural background and current life situation might influence substance use among migrants. Here, the prevalence of substance use in Russian, Somali and Kurdish migrants in Finland is reported in comparison with the general population, and the associations between substance use and socio-economic and migration-related background factors among migrants are analysed.

Methods: Cross-sectional data from the Finnish Migrant Health and Wellbeing Study (Maamu) and comparison group data of the general Finnish population (n = 1165) from the Health 2011 Survey were used. The survey participants were of Russian (n = 702), Somali (n = 512), and Kurdish (n = 632) origin. Substance use included self-reported alcohol use within previous 12 months (AUDIT-C questionnaire), current and lifetime daily smoking and lifetime use of cannabis and intravenous drugs.

Results: Binge drinking was less prevalent among all migrant groups than in the general Finnish population (Russian men 65%, p < 0.01; Russian women 30%, p < 0.01, Somali men 2%, p < 0.01, Kurdish men 27%, p < 0.01, Kurdish women 6%, p < 0.01, general population men 87% and women 72%). Current daily smoking was more prevalent among Russian (28%, p = 0.04) and Kurdish (29%, p < 0.01) migrant men compared with the reference group (20%). Younger age and employment were associated with binge drinking among migrants. Socio-economic disadvantage increased the odds for daily smoking in Russian, Somali and Kurdish migrant men. Several migration-related factors, such as age at migration and language proficiency, were associated with substance use.

Conclusions: Binge drinking is less common among migrants than in the Finnish general population. However, current daily smoking was more prevalent among Russian and Kurdish migrant men compared with the general population. Younger age, level of education, employment, duration of residence in Finland and language proficiency were associated with binge drinking and daily smoking with varying patterns of association depending on the migrant group and gender. These findings draw attention to the variation in substance use habits among migrant populations.

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Series: BMC public health
ISSN: 1471-2458
ISSN-E: 1471-2458
ISSN-L: 1471-2458
Volume: 18
Issue: 1
Article number: 651
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5564-9
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Funding: This work was funded by Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Juho Vainio Foundation (ES) and Finnish Cultural Foundation (AEC).
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.