Progress in Geography, Volume. 39, Issue 7, 1210(2020)

Review of recent research on the impacts of residential mobility on health

CHENG Hanbei1,2, ZOU You1, LIN Sainan1,2, and LI Zhigang1,2,*
Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Urban Design, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
  • 2Hubei Provincial Research Centre of Human Settlement Engineering and Technology, Wuhan 430072, China
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    China has witnessed a mass migration and mobility movement over the past four decades. Although a plethora of literature has studied the motivations, characteristics, and effects of residential mobility, little research has been done to reveal the impact of residential mobility on heath in urban China. Thus, this study combined the method of knowledge map analysis and traditional literature research analysis to review existing studies from 2004-2018 in the Web of Science database, to provide suggestions for promoting such research in China. A total of 338 papers in Web of Science on "residential mobility and health" in related fields was extracted and visually analyzed by VOSviewer. The results and conclusions are as follows. First, the influence of residential mobility on residents' health has drawn growing attention in the recent 15 years, evidenced by the increasing number of published articles, especially in the field of geography, urban planning, and environment studies. Spatial distribution of outputs was mainly concentrated in the developed countries. However, the research contents significantly differed between the United Stated and Europe. Second, the main research subjects have shifted from "homogeneity within groups" to "heterogeneity within groups", and from "common subjects" to "specific subjects" (for example, children, women, and the eldlies). On the other hand, quantitative methods, particularly cross-sectional analysis of individuals, were widely used in the early period, while mixed research methods (qualitative and quantitative) and longitudinal analysis of linked lives were adopted in follow-up studies. In terms of measurement indicators, 53% of papers selected "stress" and "depression" to estimate mental health; 32% of papers used "birth weight", "perinatal mortality", and so on as physical health outcomes, followed by "all-cause mortality rate"(16%), "obesity"(14%), and "BMI"(10%). Residential mobility indicators referred to three aspects: life course factors (personal biographies, work and housing transitions, life events), spatial and temporal factors (moving frequency, distance, location, and direction, and so on), and mobility motivations (voluntary or forced). Third, in terms of theoretical evolution, it has undergone three stages: "migration-health" from a macro (general mobility) perspective at the early stage, "residential mobility-environment-health" from a micro (individual) perspective at the second stage, and "mobility trajectory-environment change-health development" from a mobility (a range of mobility categorizations and time scales) perspective at the third stage. Fourth, based on the result of cluster analysis, four main topics were identified: 1) Disadvantaged neighborhood, instability of family structure, and vulnerable school networks led by frequent mobility would influence children's health. Children with different demographic profiles responded differently to the social contexts in which they were exposed (age-dependent neighborhood effect). 2) There were uncertainty in the spatial and temporal features of residential mobility impact on physical and mental health. 3) Diverse housing career factors (facility index, crowding rate, renting cost, and so on), on the one hand, can directly influence physical and mental health. On the other hand, they can be moderated by perceived stress to affect health indirectly. 4) Frequent mobility can result in the cumulative effect of neighborhood environment, and long-term neighborhood deprivation would induce disease risks. Finally, through a critical re-thinking of existing research in China, this article suggests that we should realize interdisciplinary analysis, and focus on the impact of intra-urban residential mobility as well as mobility trajectory on residents' health. More importantly, researchers need to explore further the mediating factors (for example, residential segregation, social differentiation, jobs-housing imbalance, and son on) and keep a close watch on the health development of migrant children living in the informal residential spaces (urban village).


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    Hanbei CHENG, You ZOU, Sainan LIN, Zhigang LI. Review of recent research on the impacts of residential mobility on health[J]. Progress in Geography, 2020, 39(7): 1210

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    Paper Information


    Received: May. 16, 2019

    Accepted: --

    Published Online: Jan. 28, 2021

    The Author Email: LI Zhigang (



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