To move, or not to move; that is the researcher’s question

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The risk of mental health problems is particularly high among movers* and remains significant even after they have adjusted to their new environment, says new evidence.

The research assessed 122,570 cases from the British Household Panel Survey (1996-2006) and was based upon pooled data describing moves between consecutive waves of the survey.

The article, The general and mental health of movers to more- and less-disadvantaged socio-economic and physical environments within the UK set out to discover what impact moving has on participants’ health.

The results showed that the chances of poor general and mental health were strongest among movers to more socio-economically deprived areas. However, the risk of poor mental health among total adults was also high among movers to better ‘physical environments’.

The ‘physical environments’ classification is based on five aspects; air pollution, cold temperature, proximity to industrial facilities (waste management or metal processing or production sites), ultraviolet B radiation and the proportional coverage of green space.

A socio-economic deprived area was defined using the Carstairs Index which is based on four measures from the Census; male unemployment, overcrowded households, no car households and low social class.

Key findings

  • ‘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.

The key findings therefore suggests that comparing rates of poor health between movers and stayers of all ages combined showed that movers had significantly lower rates of poor general health.

“The introduction of changes to social housing benefits, capping receipt of benefits and limiting spare rooms (the bedroom tax) may exacerbate health and socio-economically selective patterns of migration.”

How is a mover* classified?

Individual ‘movers’ were people who changed residential address, one or more times, during the one year time period between adjacent waves of the BHPS. ‘Stayers’ were people that did not move between survey waves. Mover status was identified using data from a derived ‘individual mover status’ variable and a question regarding time at current address.

Related links

Meet the research team

this news has been re-posted from the Understanding Society website