The Impact of Spousal Migration on the Mental Health of Nepali Women: A Cross-Sectional Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 17;17(4):1292. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041292.


Spousal separation, lack of companionship, and increased household responsibilities may trigger mental health problems in left-behind female spouses of migrant workers. This study aimed to examine mental ill-health risk in the left-behind female spouses of international migrant workers in Nepal. A cross-sectional survey was carried out in the Nawalparasi district. Study areas were purposively chosen; however, participants were randomly selected. Nepali versions of the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC) were used. Mental ill-health risk was prevalent in 3.1% of the participants as determined by GHQ. BDI identified mild or moderate depression in 6.5% of the participants with no one having severe depression. In bivariate analysis, a high frequency of communication with the husband was associated with lower mental ill-health risk and depression, as well as increasing resilience. Reduced return intervals of husbands and a high frequency of remittance were also associated with a low GHQ score. In a multiple regression model, adjusting for potential confounding variables, participants who communicated with their husbands at least once a day had a greater mean CD-RISC score (i.e., high resilience against mental ill-health risk) compared to those who did so at least once a week; a mean difference of 3.6 (95% CI 0.4 to 6.9), P = 0.03. To conclude, a low mental ill-health risk was found in the female spouses of migrants.

Keywords: Nepal; depression; left-behind; low- and middle-income countries; mental health; migrant; resilience; spouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mental Health*
  • Nepal / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • Young Adult