The aim of this study was to determine if the onset of serious disease triggers a different intra-state migratory response from patterns observed in the healthy population. The analysis was carried out using linked administrative data. The onset of serious disease triggered a reduction in the rate of endocentric migration in remote and rural populations. Urban drift occurred only in people with mental illness in rural locations. Rural and remote communities appear to suffer from an unhealthy selection force, with persons unable to migrate centrally to access services due to the onset of the physical illness they require treatment for. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.