Riva M, Curtis S, Norman P. Residential mobility within England and urban-rural inequalities in mortality. Social Science & Medicine 2011; 73 (12): 1698-1706.
This study is situated within the international literature on geographic health inequalities between urban and rural areas. Using data from the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (ONS LS), this paper assesses the role of residential mobility within England between 1981 and 2001 in explaining geographic inequalities in all-cause mortality between urban and rural Local Authority Districts at the end of the period (deaths occurring between 2001 and 2005). First, the pattern of directly age-standardised death rates (2001-2005) in urban and rural areas of residence in 2001 is examined and compared with the pattern that would have been seen if the observed death/survival of individuals had occurred in their original place of residence in 1981, or in 1991. Secondly, logistic regression is applied to examine whether individuals' residential mobility between urban and rural areas predict the risk of mortality, adjusting for people's socio-demographic characteristics. Findings show that, for this sample, residential mobility 1981-2001 accounts for about 30% of the urban rural inequalities in mortality observed at the end of the period. LS members who were residentially mobile between urban and rural areas were relatively healthier than long-term urban residents, with better mortality outcomes among rural in-migrants. In age-stratified analysis, LS members of working age (20-64 years) moving out of rural areas, and LS members of retirement age (65 years and older) moving into rural areas, were shown to be healthier. Processes of selective migration in and out of rural areas in England are complex and may partly explain urban rural health inequalities. In terms of varying mortality risk, findings also highlight the possible marginalisation and disadvantage of sub-groups of the rural population.