Migration and cognitive function: a conceptual framework for Global Health Research

Hanzhang Xu, Allison A. Vorderstrasse, Eleanor S. McConnell, Matthew E. Dupre, Truls Østbye, Bei Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Migration is a fundamental demographic process that has been observed globally. It is suggested that migration is an issue of global health importance that can have an immediate and lasting impact on an individual’s health and well-being. There is now an increasing body of evidence linking migration with cognitive function in older adults. In this paper, we synthesized the current evidence to develop a general conceptual framework to understand the factors contributing to the association between migration and cognitive function. Methods: A comprehensive review of the literature was conducted on the associations between migration and cognition among middle-aged and older adults. Results: Five potential mechanisms were identified from the literature: 1) socioeconomic status—including education, occupation, and income; 2) psychosocial factors—including social networks, social support, social stressors, and discrimination; 3) behavioral factors—including smoking, drinking, and health service utilization; 4) physical and psychological health status—including chronic conditions, physical function, and depression; and 5) environmental factors—including both physical and social environment. Several underlying factors were also identified—including early-life conditions, gender, and genetic factors. Conclusions: The factors linking migration and cognitive function are multidimensional and complex. This conceptual framework highlights potential implications for global health policies and planning on healthy aging and migrant health. Additional studies are needed to further examine these mechanisms to extend and refine our general conceptual framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number34
JournalGlobal Health Research and Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Early Life Conditions
  • General Conceptual Framework
  • Global Health Policy
  • Late-life Cognitive Function
  • Push-pull Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology


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