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Psychological migrants from Three Gorges

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in the Hubei Province of China was completed in 2008 and is the largest hydropower project in the world. It is a 600 kilometre reservoir and is designed to prevent flood, generate power and improve water supply. However as a result, 1.2 million people will have been relocated over large distances. By the end of 2003, a first batch of 9,103, mainly rural residents, had been resettled in three cities in the Zhejiang Province – Jiaxing, Hangzhou and Huzhou – at least 48 hours travelling time from their previous residence.

The project aims to find out about the prevalence of common mental disorders, like depression and anxiety, along with smoking habits and alcohol use among adolescent and young adult Three Gorges migrants who moved to Zhejiang Province between 2000 and 2003, and to compare their mental health problems and lifestyles with those of indigenous young people in the Province.

Researchers want to discover if involuntary migration and migration at an early age is associated with common mental disorders. They will also compare sexual health attitudes and sexual behaviour of both the migrant and indigenous adolescent populations.

Several population-based studies have suggested a negative impact of intercontinental migration on mental and physical health and migration at a younger age seems to be associated with worse mental health. Adolescent and young people aged 16-24 make up 10 per cent of the Three Gorges migrants now living in three cities of Zhejiang Province.

This project addresses an important and new public health issue in the Province and the results will inform local mental health care policies. It will provide important evidence for Chinese policy-makers to consider in future resettlement schemes and the findings will also be used to raise awareness of mental health issues among adolescent and adult migrants.

700 migrant and 700 indigenous adolescents and young people have been randomly selected from civic and public registers and invited to take part in the research. They will be asked to complete a questionnaire about their lifestyle and sexual experience and be interviewed about their health and experiences. The study includes the development of tools to measure the experience of migration.

Dr Jianmin Zhang, a postdoctoral research training fellow based in the Section of Epidemiology, is carrying out the research with funding from The Wellcome Trust. Dr Zhang is carrying out this work as a PhD student supervised by Dr Rob Stewart and Professor Martin Prince.

The study is being carried out in collaboration with Zhejiang Tongde Hospital in China where Dr Zhang works and the Institute for Population and Social Research at Mahidol University in Thailand who have advised on the design of a study of adolescent health.

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