A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests that, moving house frequently during childhood appears to raise the risk of poor health in later life.

The health of 850 individuals participating in the West of Scotland Twenty-07 study, which was based on postcodes, tracked the long term health of individuals aged 15, 35 and 55 in 1987-1988 over a period of two decades, was evaluated by the researchers.

The team evaluated overall health – meaning a limiting long term illness and subjective evaluation of general health, unhealthy behaviors, such as illegal drug use, smoking or heavy drinking, physical health, such as waist: hip ratio, blood pressure and lung function, and psychological health.

They found that throughout childhood:

  • 1 in 5 individuals had lived at the same address
  • 59% (6 out of 10 individuals) have moved house once or twice
  • 21% (1 in 5 individuals) have moved house at least 3 times

In addition, the researchers found that those with 2 or 3 siblings and those in single parent/step parent households were considerably more likely to move home, while individuals with at least 4 siblings tended to stay in the same house during childhood.

The team found no clear link between frequent house moves and parental housing tenure or social class. Furthermore, no association was found between physical health measures and the frequency of house moves.

However, the researchers did find an association between frequent house moves during childhood and an increased risk of psychological distress, smoking during adolescence and adulthood, heavy alcohol consumption and poorer overall health.

According to the researchers, even though some of these effects might be likely to moving schools, which can disrupt social networks and family life more than moving house alone, this was not the case for the risk of illegal drug use.

During adolescence and adulthood, the team found that illegal drug use was independently linked to frequency of house moves during childhood, even after taking into account the number of school moves and parental background and levels of affluence.

Written by Grace Rattue