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Welsh speakers have ‘strikingly’ better health than non-Welsh speakers, study finds

15 Mar 2021 3 minute read
The Eisteddfod maes in Llanrwst

Those who identify as Welsh speakers have “strikingly lower” rates of poor health and mental health than other groups in Wales, a study has found.

The study by Dr Christopher Saville of Bangor University looked at the differences in general health and mental health between national identity groups in Wales.

23,000 survey respondents in Wales were broken into five groups – Cymry Cymraeg (Welsh-speaking Welsh), Anglophone Welsh, British, English and Ethnically Diverse – and their self-reported physical and mental health compared.

It also found that those classed as Ethnically Diverse, concentrated mainly in Cardiff, with smaller pockets in Swansea, Newport, Wrexham and Flintshire, also had better health outcomes than the average.

The Welsh-speaking Welsh were only 75% as likely as the Anglophone Welsh to report poorer health and the Ethnically Diverse were only 62%.

The worst health was reported by the Anglophone Welsh and English groups, with those who identified as British in the middle. These differences between groups could not be explained by accounting for a wide range of socioeconomic and geographical factors, Dr. Christopher Saville said.

His study “demonstrates striking health disparities between the various national identity groups of Wales, which are not explained by obvious socio-demographic or geographic differences between the groups”.

“In terms of general health, the Anglophone Welsh and English had the worst outcomes, with the British trending towards slightly better health, depending on the model in question, and the Cymry Cymraeg and Ethnically Diverse groups reporting much better outcomes,” the paper said.

For mental health, the English and Anglophone Welsh again had poorer health outcomes. The Cymry Cymraeg and the Ethnically Diverse groups had reduced risks of poorer mental health.


The work finds “wide disparities among five national identity groups in Wales” but does not speculate as to the cause, suggesting further research.

“Wales is an ideal venue for this research, as part of a multi-national state where national identity is ambiguous and negotiated, but is likely representative of many other nations in this regard,” the paper says.

“National identity remains a powerful social force in the twenty-first century, and health is part of that story.”

Anglophone Welsh was the largest group at 44% of the sample, British was the second largest group at 28% of the sample, Cymru Cymraeg had 12%, English 11% and Ethnically Diverse 4%.

Unlike the other four groups, which overwhelmingly reported ‘White Welsh/English/Scottish/Northern Irish/British’ ethnicity, the Ethnically Diverse group reported a wide range of ethnicities.

“I was surprised by how persistent these differences were, even after adjusting for the socioeconomic differences between the group”, Dr. Chris Saville said.

“National identity has been really under-studied in the field of health, but it’s a big part of people’s identities and we probably shouldn’t be surprised that it’s so strongly related to health.”

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