0512 GMT February 21, 2020
After five or more moves, children are more than three times as likely to experience mental health problems, according to an analysis that tracked almost 50,000 youngsters in Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2011.
The impact of moving on mental health may also be worse for older children, particularly if they have to leave behind friends and change schools, said lead study author Foteini Tseliou of Queens University in Belfast, Reuters reported.
“Moving house can be a hugely stressful experience for the parents and the family as a whole as it can be associated with change in social environment and networks, and other aspects of the physical and social environment,” Tseliou said.
“Parents need to be aware that such a change can be even more stressful for children as they may be more sensitive and less resilient.”
To understand the impact of moving on childhood mental health, Tseliou and colleagues started analyzing data on children who were aged eight and under in 2001, using census records to assess address changes.
Then, they linked the data on moving to mental health information reported at the end of the study in 2011.
Overall, slightly more than half of the children moved at least once during the 10-year study period, and about 13 percent moved at least three times, the researchers report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Children were more likely to move if their families rented housing, or if they owned homes in less affluent areas.
Kids who were in two-parent families at both the start and the end of the study were less likely to change addresses than children who experienced a divorce or separation in the household.
Kids were about 2.5 times more likely to move if they started the study in a two-parent household and lived with just one parent ten years later.
The researchers didn’t find a connection between moving and physical health, only mental health.
One shortcoming of the study is that the census data may not capture every move, potentially underestimating the frequency of address changes the children experienced, the authors acknowledge.