Travellers suffer more from health conditions than general population – study

(Lynne Cameron/PA)
(Lynne Cameron/PA)

Travellers suffer more from physical health conditions than the general Irish population, a study by Trinity College Dublin has found.

The researchers said the findings suggest providers of care should be aware of the “disproportionate burden” of physical health conditions among Irish Travellers.

The scoping review, published in the British Medical Journal on Tuesday, highlights a disparity between the health of Travellers and the general population in Ireland.

The findings indicate that common conditions like metabolic syndrome, asthma, bronchitis and tuberculosis are two to three times more prevalent in Irish Travellers than in the general population.

In Travellers aged over 65, there were higher rates of injury compared with the general population, which researchers said highlighted their vulnerability.

It report said some findings suggested the possibility of health benefits associated with a distinct gut microbiome linked to the traditional Traveller way of life, but there was no up-to-date data available.

Researchers also called for more data on the prevalence of common conditions like cancer and arthritis in Travellers.

The study, led by Dr Julie Broderick, head of discipline of physiotherapy at Trinity’s School of Medicine, looked at all available evidence across published reports and peer-reviewed journals on the physical health conditions of Irish Travellers up to April 4.

Eleven studies were included in the review covering 7,397 participants.

One study was from England and Wales and the others took place in Ireland, north and south of the border.

“Pooling the available evidence together really highlighted marked health disparities between Travellers and comparable figures from the general Irish population,” Dr Broderick said.

“The prevalence of a number of respiratory and cardiac conditions was two to three times higher in Travellers.

“Some rare conditions were described and there was a high injury profile in Travellers.

“We very much valued the input of a member of the Traveller community, Amy Ward, who co-authored this work.

“Amy provided important direction, ensuring that the Traveller voice was integrated throughout the entire review process, which has enhanced the relevance and real-world impact of this work.”

Ms Ward said: “I really see the value of collating this information which makes an important contribution to our knowledge of health in Travellers.

“I’m hopeful that this will be a springboard for a broader piece of work that could eventually see tangible improvements in the lives of the Traveller community.”