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Health selection on self-rated health and the healthy migrant effect: Baseline and 1-year results from the health of Philippine Emigrants Study


Studies of migration and health focus on a "healthy migrant effect" whereby migrants are healthier than individuals not migrating. Health selection remains the popular explanation of this phenomenon. However, studies are mixed on whether selection occurs and typically examine migrants post-departure. This study used a novel pre-migration dataset to identify which health and social domains differ between migrants and their non-migrant counterparts and their contribution to explaining variance in self-rated health by migrant status at pre-migration and 1-year later. Data were used from the baseline and 1-year follow-up of the Health of Philippine Emigrants Study (HoPES). We used multivariable ordinary least squares regression to examine differences in self-rated health between migrants to the U.S. and a comparable group of non-migrants at baseline (premigration) and one year later, accounting for seven domains: physical health, mental health, health behavior, demographics, socioeconomic factors and healthcare utilization, psychosocial factors, and social desirability. A migrant advantage was present for self-rated health at baseline and 1-year. Accounting for all domains, migrants reported better self-rated health compared to non-migrants both at baseline (β = 0.32; 95% CI = 0.22, 0.43) and at 1-year (β = 0.28; 95% CI = 0.10, 0.46). Migrant status, health behavior, and mental health accounted for most of the variance in self-rated health both at baseline and 1-year follow-up. This analysis provides evidence of migrant health selection and nuanced understanding to what is being captured by self-rated health in studies of migrant health that should be considered in future research.

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