The general and mental health of movers to more- and less-disadvantaged socio-economic and physical environments within the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

October 15, 2014


Research Highlights• ‘Healthy migrant theory’ suggests that mobility is selective for good health.• Analysis of moves within UK found movers at most ages didn’t have better health.• Movers’ odds of poor health were more elevated for mental than general health.• Mental health was worst among movers to more socio-economically deprived areas.• Movers to less deprived physical environments also had poor mental health.

mobility may play an important role in influencing both individual
health, by determining individual exposures to environments, and area
health, by shaping area population composition. This study is the first
analysis of migration within the UK to compare general and mental health
among adults by age group and consider moves between neighbourhoods
with different levels of both socio-economic and physical environment
disadvantage. The analysis assesses 122,570 cases from the annual
British Household Panel Survey, 1996-2006, based upon pooled data
describing moves between consecutive waves of the survey. It assesses
the rates and binary logistic regression model odds of self-reported
general health and mental health problems of movers and stayers by age
group. It also compares movers between Census Area Statistics wards in
the UK with different levels of Carstairs and Multiple Environmental
Deprivation Index (MEDIx) scores. At all ages, movers had similar or
higher odds of poor general and mental health relative to non-movers.
Risk of mental health problems were particularly elevated among movers
and remained significant after adjustment for socio-demographic
variables in most age groups. In adjusted analysis of all adults odds of
poor general and mental health were most elevated among movers to more
socio-economically deprived areas, with the highest odds for mental
health (1.54 95% CI 1.27-1.86). In contrast, risk of poor mental health
among total adults was greatest among movers to better physical
environments (1.40 95% CI 1.16-1.70). This study therefore finds little
evidence of ‘healthy migrant effects’ among recent movers within the UK
and suggests movers have particularly elevated risk of mental health
problems. It also indicates that selective migration may not contribute
to poor health found in UK neighbourhoods with multiple physical
environment deprivation. Further analysis should explore why people with
mental health problems are more likely to move to socio-economically
deprived neighbourhoods.

Published in

Social Science and Medicine

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 118 , p.97 -107






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