Mental Health and Migration: Depression, Alcohol Abuse, and Access to Health Care Among Migrants in Central Asia


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


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.

Original Publication Citation

Ismayilova, L., Lee, H.N., Shaw, S., El-Bassel, N., Gilbert, L., Terlikbayeva, A., & Rozental, Y. (2014). Mental health and migration: Depression, alcohol abuse, and access to health care among Central Asian migrants. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 16(6), 1138-1148.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Social Work

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor