Mental health and migration: Depression, alcohol abuse, and access to health care among migrants in central Asia

Author(s): Leyla ISMAYILOVA ; Hae Nim LEE ; Stacey SHAW ; Nabila EL-BASSEL ; Louisa GILBERT ; Assel TERLIKBAYEVA ; Yelena ROZENTAL


One-fifth of Kazakhstan’s population is labor migrants working in poor conditions with limited legal rights. This paper examines self-rated health, mental health and access to health care among migrant workers. Using geo-mapping, a random sample of internal and external migrant market workers was selected in Almaty (N = 450). We used survey logistic regression adjusted for clustering of workers within stalls. Almost half of participants described their health as fair or poor and reported not seeing a doctor when needed, 6.2 % had clinical depression and 8.7 % met criteria for alcohol abuse. Female external migrants were at higher risk for poor health and underutilization of health services. High mobility was associated with depression among internal migrants and with alcohol abuse among female migrant workers. This study demonstrates the urgent need to address health and mental health needs and improve access to health care among labor migrants in Central Asia.


Mental health, Depression, Alcohol abuse, Labor migrants, Central Asia, Newly independent states, Kazakhstan

Tags: Kazakhstan, Depression, Substance abuse, Migrant workers, Access to mental health care

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