3 years ago

Migrants, healthy worker effect, and mortality trends in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries

Ravinder Mamtani, Sohaila Cheema, Karima Chaabna

by Karima Chaabna, Sohaila Cheema, Ravinder Mamtani

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries namely, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia, have experienced unique demographic changes. The major population growth contributor in these countries is young migrants, which has led to a shift in the population age pyramid. Migrants constitute the vast proportion of GCC countries’ population reaching >80% in Qatar and UAE. Using Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 (GBD 2015) and United Nations data, for the GCC countries, we assessed the association between age-standardized mortality and population size trends with linear and polynomial regressions. In 1990–2015, all-cause age-standardized mortality was inversely proportional to national population size (p-values: 0.0001–0.0457). In Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, the highest annual decrease in mortality was observed when the annual population growth was the highest. In Qatar, all-cause age-specific mortality was inversely proportional to age-specific population size. This association was statistically significant among the 5–14 and 15–49 age groups, which have the largest population size. Cause-specific age-standardized mortality was also inversely proportional to population size. This association was statistically significant for half of the GBD 2015-defined causes of death such as “cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases” and “HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis”. Remarkably, incoming migrants to Qatar have to be negative for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis. These results show that decline in mortality can be partly attributed to the increase in GCC countries’ population suggesting a healthy migrant effect that influences mortality rates. Consequently, benefits of health interventions and healthcare improvement are likely to be exaggerated in such countries hosting a substantial proportion of migrants compared with countries where migration is low. Researchers and policymakers should be cautious to not exclusively attribute decline in mortality within the GCC countries as a result of the positive effects of health interventions or healthcare improvement.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179711

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