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Open Access Research article

The effects of social connections on self-rated physical and mental health among internal migrant and local adolescents in Shanghai, China

Zheng-hong Mao12 and Xu-dong Zhao12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Tongji University School of Medicine, 1239 Siping Road, Shanghai 200092, China

2 Institute of Psychosomatic Medicine, Shanghai East Hospital, Tongji University, 150 Jimo Road, Shanghai 200120, China

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:97  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-97

Published: 3 February 2012

Abstract

Background

China is in the midst of history's largest flow of rural-urban migration in the world; a flow that includes growing numbers of children and adolescents. Their health status is an important public health issue. This study compares self-rated physical and mental health of migrant and local adolescents in China, and examines to what extent layered social connections account for health outcomes.

Methods

In 2010, we conducted a cross-sectional study among middle school students in Pudong New Area, Shanghai. Information about health status, social connections, and demographic factors were collected using a questionnaire survey. After controlling for sociodemographic factors, we used the t-test, Chi-square analysis, and a series of regression models to compare differences in health outcomes and explore the effects of social connections.

Results

Migrant adolescents reported significantly higher rates of good physical health. However, they also had significantly fewer social connections, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression than their native peers. Family cohesion was associated with depressive symptoms and low self-esteem among all adolescents; peer association and social cohesion played major roles in migrants' well-being. Gender, age, and socioeconomic (SES) factors also affected adolescents' self-rated physical and mental health.

Conclusions

Self-rated data suggest that migrant adolescents enjoy a physical health advantage and a mental health disadvantage. Layered social connections, such as peer association and social cohesion, may be particularly important for migrants. A public health effort is required to improve the health status of migrant youth.