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Open Access Research article

Health service use in indigenous Sami and non-indigenous youth in North Norway: A population based survey

Anne Lene Turi1*, Margrethe Bals1, Ingunn B Skre1 and Siv Kvernmo23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway

2 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Hospital of North Norway, 9038 Tromsø, Norway

3 Center of Child and Adolescent Mental Health-Region North, Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tromsø, N- 9037 Tromsø, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:378  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-378

Published: 8 October 2009



This is the first population based study exploring health service use and ethno-cultural factors in indigenous Sami and non-Sami youth in North Norway. The first aim of the present study was to compare the frequency of health service use between Sami adolescents and their non-indigenous peers. The second aim was to explore the relationships between health service use and ethno-cultural factors, such as ethnic context, Sami self-identification, perceived discrimination and Sami language competence. Finally, we wanted to explore the relationship between use of health services and emotional and behavioural problems.


The Norwegian Arctic Adolescent Health Study was conducted among 10th graders (15-16 years old) in junior high schools in North Norway. The sample consisted of 4,449 adolescents, of whom 450 (10.1%) were indigenous Sami and 3,999 (89.9%) were non-Sami.


Sami and non-Sami youth used all health services with equal frequency. However, several ethno-cultural factors were found to influence health service use. Sami youth in more assimilated ethnic contexts used general practitioners more than non-Sami youth. Youth with Sami self-identification had a higher probability of using the school health service compared with other youth. Ethnic barriers to health service use were also identified. Sami speaking youth with a high degree of perceived discrimination had lower probability of using school health services than non-Sami speaking youth. Sami youth with conduct problems were less likely than non-Sami to use psychologist/psychiatrist. The present study demonstrated a relationship between health need and actual health service use.


Culture-specific factors influenced the help-seeking process in indigenous youth; some factors acted as barriers against health service use and other factors increased the probability of health service use.