Frequent moves during childhood may be bad for health

Changing residences frequently in childhood may be bad for your health. 

Frequent movers, take note! Shifting to a new home during childhood may increase the likelihood of multiple adverse outcomes later in life, a new study has claimed.

Researchers from University of Manchester in the UK collected data on all people born in Denmark from 1971 to 1997 documenting every residential childhood move from birth to 14 years. They were then followed from age 15 until their early 40s.

Thirty-seven percent of the participants moved to a different municipality at least once before age 15, and multiple moves were most common during infancy, the study found.

Each move was associated with the age of the child so that the impact of early-in-life moves could be contrasted with moves during the early teenage years. Also, socioeconomic status (SES) of the families was determined by looking at income (annual quintiles), highest educational attainment level (primary school, high school/vocational training, higher education), and employment status (employed, unemployed, outside workforce for other reasons). Lower SES was assigned when both parents scored low in at least one of the three areas. Higher SES required both parents to be employed and a high score in income or education. Middle SES encompassed all other combinations, researchers said.

The researchers said childhood moves were associated with increased risk of attempted suicide, violent criminal acts, mental illness, substance misuse and premature death during the follow-up period. Risks seemed to increase with multiple moves, with the highest risks seen in people who moved several times when 12 to 14 years old.

This was especially true for those who changed addresses frequently during early adolescence, the researchers suggested. However, the study didn't establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between moving and psychiatric issues, just an association.

"Childhood residential mobility is associated with multiple long-term adverse outcomes," contended lead investigator Roger Webb. He's with the Center for Mental Health and Safety at the University of Manchester, in England.

"Although frequent residential mobility could be a marker for familial psychosocial difficulties, the elevated risks were observed across the socioeconomic spectrum, and mobility may be intrinsically harmful," Webb added.

This isn’t surprising when you think about it: Changing schools and leaving good friends behind can be stressful and depressing. The new study, however, shows us the adverse effects may be more serious than once thought. As Medical Daily previously reported, parents can help alleviate the negative impact of moving or make the transition easier by talking to their children before the move or allowing them to reconnect with their old friends from time to time by visiting or by encouraging them to send letters.

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