Cultural norms in Pakistan may be one main reason for the emotional stress migrants face.
Photo: Friedrich Widner


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Domestic migrants experience a substantial decline in mental and physical health, despite a significant increase in their incomes at destination, according to a new study conducted in Pakistan.

Despite significant gains in consumption, migrants in Pakistan experience a deterioration in subjective well-being. This decline in subjective well-being coincides with decreased wealth accumulation and unrealised aspirations with respect to wealth. These are the main findings of a new study from researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, D.C., and The Ohio State University in Columbus/USA.

The research establishes, for the first time, the impact of internal migration on migrants’ happiness in a developing country. The results were even more pronounced for long-distance migrants, who experienced loss of happiness, calmness and physical well-being on one hand, and lesser asset accumulation and dissatisfaction on the other hand.

The study “Moving to Despair? Migration and well-being in Pakistan”, co-authored by IFPRI researchers Katrina Kosec and Valerie Mueller (also Assistant Professor, Arizona State University) and Ohio State University’s Joyce Chen, will be published in the upcoming edition of the journal World Development.

The longitudinal study, conducted over a period of 22 years from 1990 to 2014, drew data from a unique panel survey of households in rural Pakistan to evaluate the impact of internal migration, 92 per cent of which was to other rural areas, on migrants’ physical and mental health and aspirations.

Long-distance migrants worse-off than short-distance migrants

“Internal migration has the potential to substantially increase incomes, especially for the poor in developing countries, and yet migration rates remain low.

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