Could All Your Childhood House Moves Affect Your Mental Health?
Did you move home a lot as a child? If so then you may be at a higher risk of developing serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or psychosis, according to a recent study from the University College London. The research found that the impact was most damaging for people who moved more than four times during the ages of 16 and 19. These people were four times more likely to suffer from mental health issues than people who did not move at all during these ages.
If you move two or three times during this age period it increases the risk by three times, and the risk is double for anyone who moved twice between the ages of 7 and 15.
However, what’s important to note is that the research does not suggest that moving house necessarily causes mental illness, but they are simply related in some way.
But research has shown time and time again that moving house is a significantly stressful event, and it appears that this effect is even more pronounced in teenagers. A survey from Mega Removals found that 76% of people find moving to be an extremely stressful experience, and it has consistently ranked top 10 in the most stressful life events. Only losing a loved one is deemed to be more emotionally damaging.
As found in the UCL study, moving home at such a young age can result in teenagers losing access to valuable support networks of friends and mentors in the form of teachers. And it can lead to greater levels of stress as they grow up, which has been shown to be a risk factor for psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia.
Fortunately, the results of the study weren’t all doom and gloom. They found that most people wouldn’t be at risk, as people who moved only a few times or moved over long periods of time were far less affected. So for most people, the risks are very low.
The researchers also stated that moving house after the age of 20 was far less damaging, even if it was a stressful experience for most people.
It’s also worth noting that the study was conducted in Sweden with data from 1.2 million people between 1982 and 1995 so there is a chance that results may have been affected by the circumstances of the time.
But regardless, the researchers recommend that efforts are made by parents to limit the amount of moving they do with their teenage children, but also that schools make special effort to provide support in settling into their new surroundings as quickly as possible.
Research has also found this to be strong advice for children moving home in general. Mega Removals found that children and adults had the best moving experience when they planned well in advance for the experience, and when they made an effort to integrate into their new area as soon as possible. They recommend getting children settled into their new schools as soon as possible, and also encouraging them to attend local clubs or sports activities to help them make friends quickly, and become part of the community. Showing them around the local area is also a good step to take, as it helps them become familiar with their new surroundings.
These strategies are also super useful for adults who may be struggling with the transition. And really, anything that can be done to reduce the stress of moving home is well worth doing, as anyone who’s done it will know.