Migration and Depressive Symptoms in Migrant-sending Areas: Findings from the Survey of Internal Migration and Health in China

Lu, Yao; Hu, Peifeng; Treiman, Donald J.

Objectives - China has experienced large-scale internal migration and growing mental health disorders. Limited research has examined the relationship between the two processes. We examined the association between labor out-migration and depressive symptoms of family members left behind in migrant-sending areas.
Methods - We conducted a multistage probability sample survey of Chinese adults in 2008 (“Internal Migration and Health in China”), including 787 people in rural migrant-sending areas. To study whether adults in out-migrant households were more likely to experience depressive symptoms (CES-D) than were adults in non-migrant households, we used multivariate regressions and adjusted for a wide range of confounding factors and for the complex sampling design.
Results - Adults in households with labor out-migrants were more likely to report depressive symptoms than those in households without out-migrants, presumably a result of the absence of family members. However, monetary remittances from labor migrants buffered the mental health costs of out-migration.
Conclusions - Labor out-migration has important consequences for the mental health in migrant-sending communities. There is an urgent need to address the psychological costs of migration and to promote regular remittances.

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International Journal of Public Health

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September 30, 2015