Mentally healthy or unhealthy migrants? Evidence from Shenzhen, China

Authors: Min Yang*, Department of Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University, Martin Dijst, Department of Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University, Marco Helbich, Department of Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht Univerisity
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Urban Geography, Migration
Keywords: Migration, Mental health, Hukou, Birthplace, China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Because rural–urban migration is increasing rapidly in China, the mental health of migrants has received a great deal of attention in recent years. However, empirical research on migrants’ mental health has produced mixed results. Some studies suggest that negative migration experiences in destination cities – such as separation from original social connections, perceived discrimination and marginalization from mainstream society –lead to an increased risk of mental health problems. Other studies found that migration contributes positively to health by increasing income levels and providing access to better public facilities and services. While the large majority of studies focused only on rural–urban migrants who do not have a local Hukou in their destination city, we expanded the migrant population to those who changed their place of residence, regardless of their Hukou type; that is, we introduced birthplace as an alternative definition for migrants. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 855 respondents in Shenzhen. To test the association between migration and mental health employing both definitions of migrants (i.e., Hukou and birthplace), binary logistic regression models were estimated. The results show that defining migrants differently influences the analytical outcomes. The association between migration and prevalence of mental health problems differs across the two definitions of migrants: A positive association was found based on Hukou-defined migrants, whereas a negative correlation was found when using birthplace to define migrants.

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