For each ethnic group, absolute frequencies, means, standard deviations and scores of the standardized measurements were calculated for the respective variables using Microsoft Excel. For the assessment of somatic symptoms, the scores for each item were summed up for each subject and could range from 0 to 30 in total. The level of severity was then categorised as follows: minimal 0—4 points, low 5—9, medium 10—14, and high 15—30 [ 21 ]. For health literacy, the mean of the scores for each item was calculated for each individual. The new variable was then recoded and the level of health literacy categorised as follows: 1.
As the interviews were conducted in German, the selected transcript sections where participants responded to the respective questions were translated into English. Each translated paragraph was then paraphrased. Throughout paraphrasing, all unnecessary or repetitive text passages were deleted to focus on the substantial information. Thereafter, subordinate categories were formed by directly generalizing the paraphrased sentences.
Paraphrases similar in nature were allocated to the same subordinate categories. For example, descriptions that included any form of symptomatic sensations such as pain were generalized throughout the subordinate category presence of subjective symptoms. Subordinate categories that related to the same assertion were again grouped together by formulating superordinate categories.
The raw material was abstracted throughout the development of subordinate and superordinate categories as this is said to be an ideal way of offering a transparent corpus while at the same time preserving the quality of the raw material [ 23 ]. The identification of subordinate categories was performed by one researcher KWWM and then reviewed and discussed with a second researcher TB. The SRH response options were grouped into two partly overlapping subsets of higher excellent, very good, good and lower SRH good, fair, poor , in order to analyse contrasts and similarities in SRH-definitions across ethnic groups and levels of SRH Additional file 2.
More than half of the participants were female, and the mean age was Among others, differences between the German and the two migrant groups were observed regarding the role of the social community and that of religious or spiritual practices. Higher SRH-options were generally associated with the result of specific behaviours such as treatments for a specific disease or symptoms, more relaxation, and a healthy life-style including physical activity and a healthy diet. In addition, across all ethnic groups, participants referred to higher SRH as not being restricted and lower SRH to being dependent in everyday-life, for example due to the need of external help or medication.
In contrast to the German group, migrants included unhealthy lifestyles in the form of unhealthy diet, decreased physical activity and weight increase in their SRH-definitions.
The results show that the three ethnic groups generally defined the SRH options similarly. Furthermore, our findings are consistent with prior research by Garbarski et al. Interestingly, while family background, socioeconomic circumstances and spirituality did not play an important role in the study by Garbarski et al. In contrast to the Germany study group, both migrant groups included the category good relation to social community in their definitions for higher SRH-status and the categories result of specific behaviours and disturbed well - being of social community in the definitions for lower SRH-status.
Specific behaviours in form of acts of praying and intakes of natural medicine were associated with higher SRH-status assessments among the migrant groups. This is in line with observations made by Kizilhan and Bermejo [ 25 ], that spirituality and religion plays a role among some migrant groups when it comes to how one feels. Our findings are supported by the fact that religion plays a central part in the countries and communities of origin of both migrant groups in our study [ 26 , 27 ].
Although only one migrant referred to the negative effects of work on health, other studies have observed that migrant populations are often subjected to precarious working conditions [ 3 ]. These can increase the risk of somatic and mental health problems [ 28 ], thereby contributing towards a negative assessment of SRH. Furthermore, only migrant participants included the well-being and cohesion within the social community into their SRH definitions. This could be interpreted as a sign of a collective orientation, that is, placing personal needs secondary to the well-being of the community [ 29 ].
The fact that none of the German participants defined SRH-status based on collective values or religious aspects indicates the presence of a systematic difference across the three groups in the understanding of the SRH question. The majority of studies in Germany comparing migrant populations to the native population focus on migrant populations large in numbers, such as those originating from Turkey or from the former Soviet Union [ 30 , 31 , 32 ].
There are hardly any health studies focussing on persons originating from Bosnia in Germany. Comparing the three ethnic groups not only enabled the comparison between migrants and non-migrants, but more importantly, between two migrant groups different in size. Our results indicate that while the SRH question is to a large extent similarly understood across ethnic groups, there are differences regarding the importance placed on social cohesion and community well-being.
In contrast to the German study group, values of collectivism appear to play a more significant role in the SRH assessments of the two migrant groups. Future research should try to quantify the extent to which collective orientations influence the rating of the SRH question. The fact that the study population comprised a convenience sample limits the generalizability of our findings. Further, the German study population comprised mostly women and was generally older than the migrant groups. This could have influenced the way SRH was assessed, partly explaining the differences in the understanding of SRH-status between the ethnic groups [ 14 , 33 ].
Although there were different levels of German language competency among the interviewees, this was not a major concern in the current study. Newly arrived migrants and those with very low German language skills might provide different insights, and further investigations should include even more diverse samples. Bombak AE. Self-rated health and public health: a critical perspective.
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Thousand Oaks: Sage; Kuckartz U. Standardization of a screening instrument PHQ for somatization syndromes in the general population.
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