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Open Access Research article

Self reported skin morbidity and ethnicity: a population-based study in a Western community

Florence Dalgard1*, Jan Øivind Holm2, Åke Svensson3, Bernadette Kumar1 and Johanne Sundby1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Dermatology, Ullevål University Hospital, Oslo, Norway

3 Department of Dermatology, University Hospital, Malmø, Sweden

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BMC Dermatology 2007, 7:4  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-7-4

Published: 29 June 2007



Recent studies have shown ethnic differences concerning cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and mental health. Little is known about ethnic differences in skin morbidity. The purpose of this study was to describe possible ethnic differences in self-reported skin morbidity in a Western urban community.


The design was cross sectional. 40 888 adults in Oslo, Norway, received a postal questionnaire providing information on socio-demographic factors and self-reported health, including items on skin complaints.


18770 individuals answered the questionnaire. In the sample 84% were from Norway. The largest immigrant group was from Western countries (5%) and the Indian Subcontinent (3%). Itch was the most prevalent reported skin symptom (7%), and was significantly more reported by men from East Asia (18%) and Middle East/North Africa (13%). The same observations were seen for reported dry and sore skin. Hair loss was a dominating complaint for men from the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East/North Africa (23% and 25%) and for women from the same ethnic groups. Women from Sub-Saharan Africa reported significantly more pimples than in the other groups (17%).


The study showed that there were significant differences in self-reported skin complaints among ethnic groups. Issues concerning the cultural value of some skin symptoms should be examined further.