The health of Gypsies and Travellers is significantly worse than that of other vulnerable groups, reveals research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
It is not known how many Gypsies and Travellers there are in Britain, but estimates put the number at around 300,000.
The researchers assessed the health of just under 300 Gypsies and Travellers of UK and Irish origin in five locations across England (Sheffield, Leicester, Norfolk, London, and Bristol).
Using validated measures, this was compared with the health of people living in rural communities, or areas of deprivation, or ethnic minority communities, all of whom tend to have poorer health than average.
The findings showed that Gypsies and Travellers were significantly more likely to have a long term illness, problem, or disability that interfered with daily life or which limited their ability to work.
They were also more immobile, had greater problems maintaining their own health, and endured more pain and discomfort, anxiety and depression than people in the other groups.
Their rates of diabetes, stroke and cancer were not higher. But the authors point out that often these diseases can be 'silent' and that any associated symptoms might not have been recognised.
Gypsies and Travellers were also significantly more likely to say they had chest pain, respiratory problems, and arthritis. And they reported higher rates of miscarriage and premature death among their children.
Policies to tackle health inequalities have clearly not been meeting the needs of Gypsies and Travellers, conclude the authors.
A companion paper in the journal, which looked at Gypsies' and Travellers' health beliefs and experiences, found that ill health is seen as 'normal' and something that everyone has to bear.