Moving may increase a child’s risk for mental health and behavioral problems later in life, a new study suggests.
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.
The study included all 1.4 million Danes born between 1971 and 1997 whose family moves between birth and 14 years were documented. 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.
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.
Whether a family was poor, middle-class or wealthy did not alter the apparent risk, according to the study. It was published June 7 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“Health and social services, schools and other public agencies should be vigilant of the psychological needs of relocated adolescents, including those from affluent as well as deprived families,” Webb said in a journal news release.
The American Academy of Pediatrics explains how to help children adjust to a move.