Regularly moving house as a child could potentially have a big impact on mental health later in life, according to a major new study.
The researchers collected data from all people born in Denmark from 1971 to 1997 and documented every childhood move from birth to 14 years. In all, they tracked 1.4 million people.
They were then able to measure subsequent negative events in adulthood including suicide and psychiatric illness.
“Owing to its uniquely complete and accurate registration of all residential changes in its population, Denmark is the only country where it is currently possible to conduct such a comprehensive national investigation of childhood residential mobility and risk of adverse outcomes in later life,” says lead investigator, Dr Roger Webb, from the University of Manchester.
His team was able to find a direct link between those who frequently moved before reaching their 15th birthday and adverse outcomes as adults. The risk of attempted suicide was raised markedly if multiple relocations happened between the ages of 12 and 14.
“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,” says Dr Webb. “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.”