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Emotional well-being in South African migrants

Effects of migration on Black South Africans' mental health

Faculty Associate Sangeetha Madhavan, along with collaborators Tyler Myroniuk and Michael White, recently published an article in SSM - Mental Health that investigates post-migration life satisfaction and mental health in South African migrants.

The history of apartheid in South Africa has given rise to extensive migration to-and-from rural and urban areas, particularly for Black South Africans seeking work opportunities. While this geographic mobility has been positively associated with the nation's economic development, migrants often face a lack of stable employment, sub-optimal living conditions, and service inaccessibility.

Additionally, South Africa faces one of the highest levels of income inequality and racial segregation in the world. Areas with higher proportions of Black and Coloured (i.e., mixed-race South Africans) residents often have inadequate educational and economic opportunities. Despite these inequalities, there is a dearth of research investigating the mental health of migrants living in this highly racialized context.

Thus, Madhavan, Myroniuk, and White set out to investigate the emotional well-being of Black South Africans following internal migration. Gathering data from the longitudinal National Income Dynamics Study, the authors conducted their analyses using a sample of 2,281 individuals aged 15 and older with a recorded history of internal migration during the data collection period.

Several migration characteristics were associated with positive mental health outcomes. Higher life satisfaction and a lower risk for depression was associated with migration within the last two years, further away, and between provinces. In fact, moving in the past two years was linked to an approximately one-third reduction in the chances of being at risk for depression. Moving between provinces was associated with more than a 50% reduction. Overall, the study determined that long-distance moves were likely to result in better socioemotional outcomes.

The authors suggest that policymakers should dedicate more resources to support the emotional well-being of individuals who want or need to move for survival or upward mobility, but cannot. Further investigation is needed to formulate evidence-based public health initiatives aimed at promoting potential migrants' mental health outcomes.


Read the full article here:

Myroniuk, T. W., White, M. J., & Madhavan, S. (2022). Post-migration emotional well-being among black South Africans. SSM-Mental Health, 100173.