Health literacy among newly arrived refugees in Sweden and implications for health and healthcare

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to examine the distribution of health literacy (HL) levels in newly arrived Arabic-, Dari-, or Somali-speaking refugees in Sweden. Further aims were to investigate sociodemographic characteristics associated with inadequate HL in this group, and to investigate whether HL levels are associated with experiences of the health examination for asylum seekers (HEA), health seeking behaviour and health.Three quantitative cross-sectional studies, using data from two different surveys, were conducted among Arabic-, Dari-, and Somali-speaking, newly arrived refugees taking part in courses in Swedish for immigrants or civic orientation. In addition, an explorative qualitative study, based on focus group discussions, was performed on Arabic- and Somali-speaking newly arrived refugees who had taken part in an HEA. All data were collected 2013-2016. The quantitative data were analysed using different statistical methods, foremost descriptive statistics and univariate and multivariate binary logistic regression analyses. The qualitative data were analysed using Graneheim and Lundman’s method for latent content analysis.The main findings were that the majority of Arabic-, Dari-, or Somali-speaking refugees in Sweden have limited functional health literacy (FHL) and/or limited comprehensive health literacy (CHL). Having a low education level and/or being born in Somalia were associated with having inadequate FHL, but not with having inadequate CHL. Limited FHL was associated with inadequate CHL. Experiences of poor quality of communication and having benefited little from the HEA were more common among those with limited CHL, as compared to those with higher CHL. Experiences of communication problems and a lack of information related to the HEA were found in the qualitative studies as well. In addition, it was more common that those with limited CHL reported poor general health and impaired psychological well-being, and that they had refrained from seeking healthcare.In conclusion: limited HL is common among newly arrived refugees in Sweden and seems to be of importance for the experience of the HEA, health-seeking behaviour and health. HL needs to be taken into consideration in the work with refugees in order to increase equity in healthcare and health.