International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 691–698 | Cite as

Migration and depressive symptoms in migrant-sending areas: findings from the survey of internal migration and health in China

  • Yao LuEmail author
  • Peifeng Hu
  • Donald J. Treiman
Original Article



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.


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.


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.


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.


Depression Mental health Migration Internal migration Sending areas China 


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.UCLALos AngelesUSA

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