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Difficult Life Events, Selective Migration and Spatial Inequalities in Mental Health in the UK

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0126567
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


OBJECTIVE: Research has indicated that people moving towards neighbourhoods with disadvantaged socio-economic status have poor health, in particular mental health, but the reasons for this are unclear. This study aims to assess why people moving towards more socio-economically deprived areas have poor mental health. It focuses upon the role of difficult life events that may both trigger moves and damage mental health. This study investigates how mental health and socio-spatial patterns of mobility vary between people moving following difficult life events and for other reasons.

METHODS: Longitudinal analysis of British Household Panel Survey data describing adults' moves between annual survey waves, pooled over ten years, 1996-2006 (N=122,892 observations). Respondents were defined as 'difficult life event movers' if they had experienced relationship breakdown, housing eviction/repossession, or job loss between waves. Respondents were categorised as moving to more or less deprived quintiles using their Census Area Statistic residential ward Carstairs score. Mental health was indicated by self-reported mental health problems. Binary logistic regression models of weighted data were adjusted for age, sex, education and social class.

RESULTS: The migration rate over one year was 8.5%; 14.1% of movers had experienced a difficult life event during this time period. Adjusted regression model odds of mental health problems among difficult life event movers were 1.67 (95% CI 1.35-2.07) relative to other movers. Odds of difficult life events movers, compared to other movers, moving to a less deprived area, relative to an area with a similar level of deprivation, were 0.70 (95% CI 0.58-0.84). Odds of mental health problems among difficult life event movers relocating to more deprived areas were highly elevated at 2.40 (95% CI 1.63-3.53), relative to stayers.

CONCLUSION: Difficult life events may influence health selective patterns of migration and socio-spatial trajectories, reducing moves to less deprived neighbourhoods among people with mental illness.

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ID: 19906069