Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Completed Projects

Project Title:

How much of Glasgow’s poor health record can be explained by selective migration?

Project Number:



Paul Boyle (University of St Andrews)
Frank Popham (University of St Andrews)
Dermot O'Reilly (Queen's University Belfast)
Alastair Leyland (University of Glasgow)

Start Date:

Approved on 04-09-2008


Glasgow is one of the least healthy cities in Europe. In 2006 male life expectancy was less than 70 years, the lowest in Britain. The difference between Glasgow and the rest of Scotland has increased and, although Glasgow has become more deprived relative to the rest of Scotland, mortality rates are higher than the excess deprivation would suggest.1 This excess mortality has been described as the ‘Glasgow Effect’.

One possible explanation for Glasgow’s particularly poor and worsening health record, which has been relatively ignored to date, is selective migration. There is growing evidence that selective migration, whereby there is a net movement of the economically better-off and healthier residents away from the relatively more deprived areas, and the residualisation of unhealthy people in more deprived areas, can have a significant impact on the spatial distribution of ill-health2-5. This is often accompanied by a net decline in the numbers of people living in the least desirable places. One study suggests this process explains about 50% of the increase in socioeconomic gradients in mortality in England and Wales during the 1990s.

In addition to becoming comparatively more deprived, Glasgow has also been losing population at a faster rate than other parts of Scotland – between 1981 and 2001 its population fell by 18.8% compared to 5.9% for the rest of the Clydeside conurbation and a growth of 0.4% for the rest of Scotland.

We will investigate the influence of selective migration on the relative health of Glasgow, which continues to experience significant population decline. This study will help explain the persistence of Glasgow’s poorer health, and point to difficulties in assessing policies devised to reduce health inequalities between areas.


  1. Leyland A, Dundas R, McLoone P, Boddy A. Inequalities in mortality in Scotland 1981-2001. Occassional Paper No16 MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit: Glasgow. 2007

  2. Boyle P. Population geography: migration and inequalities in mortality and morbidity. Progress in Human Geography. 2004; 28: 767-776

  3. Norman P, Boyle P, Rees P. Selective migration, health and deprivation: a longitudinal analysis. Soc Sci Med 2005; 60: 2755-2771.

  4. Brimblecombe N; Dorling D; Shaw M. Mortality and migration in Britain, first results from the British Household Panel Survey. Soc Sci Med 1999; 49: 981-988.

  5. O'Reilly D, Stevenson M. Selective migration from deprived areas in Northern Ireland and the spatial distribution of inequalities: implications for monitoring health and inequalities in health. Soc Sci Med 2003; 57: 1455-1462

  6. Connolly S, O'Reilly D, Rosato M. Has the increasing inequality in health in England and Wales been caused by the selective movement of people between areas? A 12-year mortality study using the Longitudinal Study. Social Science and Medicine 2007; 64: 2008-2015.

Related Outputs (viewable on CALLS Hub):

Explore the variables held in the SLS data dictionary.

Recent News

Upcoming Events

Events feed unavailable

Latest SLS Tweets