People who shift to new houses frequently put their children at an increased risk of multiple adverse outcomes — such as suicide, violent criminality, psychiatric illness and substance misuse — later in life, warn researchers.
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.
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.
With a number of comprehensive national registries at their disposal, researchers were able to measure and correlate subsequent negative events in adulthood, including attempted suicide, violent criminality, psychiatric illness, substance misuse, and natural and unnatural deaths.
The risk of adverse outcomes due to residential mobility during childhood was classified into three categories — self-directed and interpersonal violence (attempted suicide, violent criminality), mental illness and substance misuse (any psychiatric diagnosis, substance misuse), and premature mortality (natural and unnatural deaths).
As many as 37 per cent of people studied relocated across a municipal boundary at least once before reaching their 15th birthdays, with multiple relocations occurring most frequently during infancy, researchers found.
Across all adverse outcomes studied, the highest risks were among individuals who moved frequently during early adolescence, they said.
Data analysis showed that risk increased with multiple moves at any age versus a single move, and that an even sharper spike in risk for violent offending was observed with multiple relocations within a single year.
The attempted suicide risk increased steadily with rising age at the time of the move, and was markedly raised if multiple annual relocations occurred during early adolescence (12-14 years of age), researchers said.
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.
“Childhood residential mobility is associated with multiple long-term adverse outcomes,” said Roger T Webb from University of Manchester.
“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,” he said.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
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