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Dimensions of internal migration and their relationship to blood pressure in South Africa

  • Chantel F. Pheiffer (a1), Stephen T. McGarvey (a2), Carren Ginsburg (a3), Mark Collinson (a3), F. Xavier Gómez-Olivé (a3), Stephen Tollman (a3) and Michael J. White (a1)...


Hypertension prevalence is on the rise in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) like South Africa, and migration and its concomitant urbanization are often considered to be associated with this rise. However, relatively little is known about the relationship between blood pressure (BP) and internal migration – a highly prevalent population process in LMICs. This study employed data for a group of 194 adult men and women from an original pilot dataset drawn from the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System in north-east South Africa conducted in 2012. Migrants in the sample were identified, tracked and interviewed. The relationship between BP and migration distance and the number of months an individual spent away from his/her home village was estimated using robust OLS regression, controlling for a series of socioeconomic, health and behavioural characteristics. It was found that migrants who moved a longer distance and for longer durations had significantly higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures compared with shorter-term migrants and those who remained nearby or in their home village. These associations remained robust and statistically significant when adjusting for measures of socioeconomic conditions, as well as body mass index and the number of meals consumed per day. Migration, both in terms of distance and time away, explained significant variation in the blood pressure of migrants in this typical South African context. The findings suggest the need for further studies of the nutritional and psycho-social factors associated with geographic mobility that may be important to understand rising hypertension levels in LMICs.


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