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Residential mobility in the UK during pregnancy and infancy: Are pregnant women, new mothers and infants 'unhealthy migrants'?


  • Tunstall, Helena
  • Pickett, Kate
  • Johnsen, Sarah


People that move home within developed countries report, on average, better health than non-movers. Pregnant women, new mothers and infants are particularly mobile, but the limited evidence regarding the relationship between their mobility and health suggests they may not conform to the 'healthy migrant' effect. This paper examines the relationship between mobility and health among these groups in the UK, using logistic regression to analyse cross-sectional data for 18,197 families in the Millennium Cohort Study wave one. It compares health status variables among mobile and non-mobile families; describes mobile families' socio-demographic characteristics; explores associations between health outcomes, reasons for residential moves, and experiences of homelessness; and assesses the association between mobility and health care utilisation, social support and residential satisfaction. The paper concludes that mobile pregnant women, new mothers and infants do have poor health outcomes in comparison to non-movers, but this is primarily explained by their socio-demographic characteristics and the negative circumstances associated with a minority of their moves. Families that moved during pregnancy and infancy had worse self-rated health and depression among mothers, and lower birth weight and higher risk of accidents among infants, than non-movers. Mothers in mobile families were younger and had lower levels of education and owner-occupation than non-movers. After adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics mobility was weakly and non-significantly associated with most health variables with the exception of self-rated health and depression among mothers who moved for negative reasons (such as relationship breakdown or problems with neighbours), or had been homeless since birth. After adjustment mobile families had lower levels of most measures of health care utilisation compared to non-movers, but mothers did not report less frequent social contacts, and those that moved during infancy for positive reasons (such as wanting a better home or neighbourhood) had greater satisfaction with home and area.

Suggested Citation

  • Tunstall, Helena & Pickett, Kate & Johnsen, Sarah, 2010. "Residential mobility in the UK during pregnancy and infancy: Are pregnant women, new mothers and infants 'unhealthy migrants'?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(4), pages 786-798, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:71:y:2010:i:4:p:786-798

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Boyle, Paul & Norman, Paul & Rees, Philip, 2002. "Does migration exaggerate the relationship between deprivation and limiting long-term illness? A Scottish analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 21-31, July.
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    9. John Hobcraft, 1998. "Intergenerational and Life-Course Transmission of Social Exclusion: Influences and Childhood Poverty, Family Disruption and Contact with the Police," CASE Papers case15, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
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    Cited by:

    1. Green, Mark A. & Subramanian, S.V. & Vickers, Daniel & Dorling, Danny, 2015. "Internal migration, area effects and health: Does where you move to impact upon your health?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 136, pages 27-34.
    2. Tunstall, Helena & Mitchell, Richard & Pearce, Jamie & Shortt, Niamh, 2014. "The general and mental health of movers to more- and less-disadvantaged socio-economic and physical environments within the UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 97-107.
    3. Morris, Tim & Manley, David & Northstone, Kate & Sabel, Clive E., 2016. "On the move: Exploring the impact of residential mobility on cannabis use," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 239-248.


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