From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Migration and Health

Changes in population health, along with progress towards targeted reductions in inequalities, are assessed on the basis of comparisons of populations over time. However, migration introduces problems into the measurement of population health. Migration patterns are not random; populations have been decreasing in deprived (and high mortality) areas and increasing in affluent (and low mortality) areas. Data from the 2001 Census were used to classify areas according to population change in Scotland at the Census output area level while area level deprivation was measured using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004. Health outcomes included age-standardised all cause mortality (2000-2002), limiting long term illness and general health. Findings suggest that illness rates, measured using Census reporting of limiting long-term illness, at small area level differ not only according to the age of the population and area deprivation but also according to the levels of population mobility experienced (differentiating between areas whose populations were increasing, those whose populations were decreasing, and those that remained the same size but which had high or low turnover). Illness rates were highest overall for males in the most deprived quintile living in areas where the population had decreased by at least 10% in the year preceding the 2001 census. The fact that those who are left behind as populations move between areas tend to be in poor health may lead to artifactual increases in area based health inequalities.

We have also shown that movement between areas has led to changes in the sociodemographic (and to a lesser extent health) characteristics of these areas. We also found that frequent house moves in childhood led to poor health in adolescence and adulthood in 850 Twenty-07 respondents, although this association diminished with time. However, work funded by Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) suggested that selective migration had little impact on the widening mortality differential between Glasgow and other cities in Scotland.



Brown D, Benzeval M, Gayle V, Macintyre S, O'Reilly D, Leyland AH. Childhood residential mobility and health in late adolescence and adulthood: findings from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 2012;66:942-950

pubmed  open access  

Brown D, O'Reilly D, Gayle V, Macintyre S, Benzeval M, Leyland AH. Socio-demographic and health characteristics of individuals left behind in deprived and declining areas in Scotland. Health & Place 2012;18:440-444

pubmed  open access  


Popham F, Boyle P, O'Reilly D, Leyland AH. Selective internal migration: does it explain Glasgow's worsening mortality record?. Health & Place 2011;17:1212-17

pubmed  open access  


Brown D, Leyland AH. Scottish mortality rates 2000-2002 by deprivation and small area population mobility. Social Science & Medicine 2010;71:1951-7

pubmed  open access  

Popham F, Boyle P, O'Reilly D, Leyland AH. Exploring the impact of selective migration on the deprivation-mortality gap within Greater Glasgow. February 2010. Glasgow, 2010

open access  


Brown D, Leyland AH. Population mobility, deprivation and self-reported limiting long-term illness in small areas across Scotland. Health & Place 2009;15:37-44

pubmed  open access  


  • Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) The SIMD identifies small area concentrations of deprivation in Scotland on the basis of a number of domains. The areas used are data zones, allowing small pockets of deprivation to be identified.
  • Standardised A process by which rates are adjusted to make them comparable. For example, age-standardised rates adjust for differing age structures in populations.
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