Background: Migration may impact the mental health of family members who remain in places of origin. We examined longitudinal associations between having an adult child migrant and mental health, for middle-aged and older Mexican adults accounting for complex time-varying confounding.
Methods: Mexican Health and Aging Study cohort (N = 11 806) respondents ≥50 years completed a 9-item past-week depressive symptoms scale; scores of ≥5 reflected elevated depressive symptoms. Expected risk differences (RD) for elevated depressive symptoms at each wave due to having at least one (versus no) adult child migrant in the US or in another Mexican city were estimated with longitudinal targeted maximum likelihood estimation.
Results: Women with at least one adult child in the US had a higher adjusted baseline prevalence of elevated depressive symptoms (RD: 0.063, 95% CI: 0.035, 0.091) compared to women with no adult children in the US. Men with at least one child in another Mexican city at all three study waves had a lower adjusted prevalence of elevated depressive symptoms at 11-year follow-up (RD: -0.042, 95% CI: -0.082, -0.003) compared to those with no internal migrant children over those waves. For men and women with ≤3 total children, adverse associations between having an adult child in the US and depressive symptoms persisted beyond baseline.
Conclusions: Associations between having an adult child migrant and depressive symptoms varied by respondent gender, family size, and the location of the child migrant. Trends in population aging and migration bring new urgency to examining associations with other outcomes and in other settings.
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