7 The Health of the Maltese Migrant

The vast majority of Maltese that emigrated over the years have been young and vigorous and have passed all screening tests that immigration officials threw at them before being accepted. More recently. through the family re-union program, some older and more frail parents have been allowed through.

On the whole, therefore, one expects that the cohort of migrants that left their native land were, if anything, in better shape overall than the rest of the population in Malta or possibly also in Australia. In fact a number of studies have confirmed that on arrival, the migrant is significantly less subject to a number of diseases which affect the Australian-born.

In determining the health of the nation one has to take into account both genetic and acquired determinants of health. Both play a crucial and interwoven role in the production of disease manifestations. On the whole one might expect that genetic disorders that express themselves late in life (e.g. diabetes) are as likely to affect the Maltese in Malta as those in Australia. On the other hand, most genetic disorders require an environmental component before they become fully expressed as a disease - diabetes is more likely to become manifest in a person who indulges in a high carbohydrate diet.

It is therefore relevant to compare the health of the Maltese in Australia with those still living in Malta to look for specific conditions that stand out, particularly in comparison with the surrounding Mediterranean countries.

The Maltese in Malta are born with a complex mix of Mediterranean genes nurtured with Anglo-Celtic habits. This mixture might explain some of the similarities and discrepancies which Maltese migrants share with the surrounding Mediterran countries, as well as with the British way of life.

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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