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Internal migration and health: re-examining the healthy migrant phenomenon in China.

ABSTRACT

This study re-examines the healthy migrant phenomenon in China's internal migration process and investigates the different trajectories of place of origin on migrants' self-rated physical health and psychological distress. Data came from a household survey (N = 1474) conducted in Beijing between May and October in 2009. Multiple regression techniques were used to model the associations between self-rated physical health, psychological distress, and migration experience, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics. The healthy migrant phenomenon was observed among migrants on self-rated physical health but not on psychological distress. Different health status trajectories existed between physical health versus mental health and between rural-to-urban migrants versus urban-to-urban migrants. The study draws particular attention to the diminishing physical health advantage and the initial high level of psychological distress among urban-to-urban migrants. The initial physical health advantage indicates that it is necessary to reach out to the migrant population and provide equal access to health services in the urban area. The high level of psychological distress suggests that efforts targeting mental health promotion and mental disorder prevention among the migrant population are an urgent need. The findings of the study underline the necessity to make fundamental changes to the restrictive hukou system and the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities in urban and rural areas. These changes will lessen the pressure on big cities and improve the living conditions and opportunities of residents in townships/small cities and the countryside.