Internal migration and the health of the returned population: a nationally representative study of China
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Abstract Background China had 236 million internal migrants in 2012 and the majority of them migrated from rural to urban areas. The research based on medical and epidemical records found that the migrants had worse health than the urban residents, but the household and working place investigations reported better health status. The sick or unhealthy migrants are likely to return to their hometowns, which in turn may cause a report bias or over-estimation of the health status of rural-to-urban migrants in China. This paper explores the association of migration status and the physical and psychological health of Chinese internal migrants. Methods Nationally representative household survey data from the China Labor-force Dynamics Survey 2012 (CLDS) were used to analyze the association between the migration status and the health status of internal migrants in China. Migration status of the respondents was measured by hukou status and migration experience and all respondents were divided into four groups: returned population, migrant population, urban residents, and rural residents. Health status of respondents was measured by self-reported physical and psychological health. Results Migration experience was associated with the physical health of the returned population. The physical health of the returned population was worse than the migrant population and was distinguished by age and sex. The physical health status of migrant population was significantly better than rural residents, but not significantly better than urban residents. However, the association between migration status and psychological health was not statistically significant. Besides migration status, the socioeconomic status (SES) had a positive correlation with both physical and psychological health status, while occupational hazards exerted negative influence. Conclusion The results indicate a tight association between migration experience and health status. The internal unhealthy migrants were more likely to return to their hometown and the migrant population might have limited health advantage.