environmental disasters, forced migration, internal displacement, health


Migration is a standard survival strategy in the context of disasters. While prior studies have examined factors associated with return migration following disasters, an area that remains relatively underexplored is whether moving home to one’s original community results in improved health and well-being compared to other options such as deciding to move on. In the present study, our objective is to explore whether return migration, compared to other migration options, results in superior improvements to mental health. We draw upon data from a cross-sectional pilot study conducted 16 months after a series of volcanic eruptions in Merapi, Indonesia. Using ordinal logistic regression, we find that compared to respondents who were still displaced (reference category), respondents who had “moved home” were proportionally more likely to report good mental health (proportional odds ratios (POR) = 2.02 [95% CI = 1.05, 3.91]) compared to average or poor mental health. Likewise, respondents who had “moved on” were proportionally more likely to report good mental health (POR = 2.64 [95% CI = 0.96, 7.77]. The results suggest that while moving home was an improvement from being displaced, it may have been better to move on, as this yielded superior associations with self-reported mental health.

Original Publication Citation

Muir1 , Jonathan A., Michael R. Cope, Leslie Angeningsih, Jorden E. Jackson1 , and Ralph B. Brown. 2019. “Migration and Mental Health in the Aftermath of Disaster: Evidence from Mt. Merapi, Indonesia.” International journal of environmental Research Public Health. 16(15), 2726.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor