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

Helena Tunstall, Richard Mitchell, Jamie Pearce, Niamh Shortt
Social Science & Medicine 2014, 118: 97-107
Residential 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.

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