Internal migration, mental health, and suicidal behaviors in young rural Chinese

  • Jing Dai
  • Bao-Liang Zhong
  • Yu-Tao Xiang
  • Helen F. K. ChiuEmail author
  • Sandra S. M. Chan
  • Xin Yu
  • Eric D. Caine
Original Paper



There is a dearth of data on the association of internal migration with mental health in young rural Chinese. This study aims to explore the associations between migrant status, mental health, and suicidal behaviors in young rural Chinese.


We recruited 1,646 rural subjects aged 16–34 years, of whom 756 were migrant workers and 890 non-migrants, from ten representative villages in rural Sichuan Province, the southwestern part of China. To assess subject’s depressive symptoms and general psychological quality of life (psycho-QOL), the study protocol included the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, and psycho-QOL subscale of the World Health Organization’s QOL Questionnaire-Brief Version, in addition to structured questions regarding one-year suicidal thoughts and behaviors (serious ideation, plan, and attempt), socio-demographic, social support, and physical health information.


After adjustment for confounders, migrant workers had relative to non-migrant rural residents a decreased risk for depression (OR = 0.69, P = 0.026), but comparable risk for poor psycho-QOL (OR = 0.91, P = 0.557) and one-year suicidal behaviors (OR = 0.59–1.10, P = 0.19–0.90). Migrant status only accounted for 0.5, 2.8, 4.7, 9.8, and 12.6 % of the total explainable variance for suicide attempt, poor psycho-QOL, suicide plan, depression and serious suicide ideation, respectively.


Our findings suggested that among young rural Chinese there were no significant associations involving migrant status and poor psycho-QOL or one-year suicidal behaviors, while migrant status significantly correlated with a decreased risk of depression. The unique contribution of migrant status to mental health among young rural Chinese participants in this study was very small.


Internal migration Mental health Suicidal behavior Chinese Young 



Migrant worker


Symptom Checklist-90-R


Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale


World Health Organization’s Quality of Life Questionnaire-Brief Version



This work was supported in part by an unrestricted educational grant from Lundbeck Export A/S (H. Chiu, PI); by Direct Grant 2041160 (S. Chan, PI), 2041727 (S. Chan, PI) and 2041728 (H. Chiu, PI) from The Chinese University of Hong Kong; by grant D43 TW05814 from the Fogarty International Center of NIH (E.D. Caine, PI); by grant R49 CE002093 (E.D. Caine, PI) from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and by JCYJ20130401155103435 (TB. Liu, PI) and JCYJ20130401155103442 (J. Dai, PI) from Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Committee. All the funding sources listed had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Dai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bao-Liang Zhong
    • 1
  • Yu-Tao Xiang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Helen F. K. Chiu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sandra S. M. Chan
    • 1
  • Xin Yu
    • 4
  • Eric D. Caine
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong Kong SARPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Shenzhen Key Laboratory for Psychological Healthcare, Shenzhen Institute of Mental Health, Shenzhen Kangning Hospital, Shenzhen Mental Health CenterShenzhenPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of MacauMacao SARPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Institute of Mental HealthPeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention and Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

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