Migration, environmental hazards, and health outcomes in China

Juan Chen, Shuo Chen, Pierre F. Landry

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


China's rapid economic growth has had a serious impact on the environment. Environmental hazards are major sources of health risk factors. The migration of over 200 million people to heavily polluted urban areas is likely to be significantly detrimental to health. Based on data from the 2009 national household survey " Chinese Attitudes toward Inequality and Distributive Injustice" (N = 2866) and various county-level and municipal indicators, we investigate the disparities in subjective exposure to environmental hazards and associated health outcomes in China. This study focuses particularly on migration-residency status and county-level socio-economic development. We employ multiple regressions that account for the complex multi-stage survey design to assess the associations between perceived environmental hazards and individual and county-level indicators and between perceived environmental hazards and health outcomes, controlling for physical and social environments at multiple levels. We find that perceived environmental hazards are associated with county-level industrialization and economic development: respondents living in more industrialized counties report greater exposure to environmental hazards. Rural-to-urban migrants are exposed to more water pollution and a higher measure of overall environmental hazard. Perceived environmental risk factors severely affect the physical and mental health of the respondents. The negative effects of perceived overall environmental hazard on physical health are more detrimental for rural-to-urban migrants than for urban residents. The research findings call for restructuring the household registration system in order to equalize access to public services and mitigate adverse environmental health effects, particularly among the migrant population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-95
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • China
  • Depressive distress
  • Environmental hazards
  • Environmental health
  • Migration
  • Physical health
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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