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Frequent Moves as Kid Take Toll Later

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on Mon, 08/13/2012 - 15:27
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Frequent relocation during childhood had a significant association with poor health, poor health behaviors, and psychological distress in adolescence and adulthood, Scottish investigators reported.

Adults who moved three or more times during childhood had almost double the risk of long-term health issues as compared with adults who did not move. Adverse effects of moving on psychologic state and health behaviors (particularly illicit drug use) emerged in the late teens, according to Denise Brown, PhD, of the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, and co-authors.

Only the domain of physical health appeared unaffected by frequent moving, they reported online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"Increased childhood residential moves were associated with elevated poor overall health, psychological distress, and poor health behaviors in late adolescence and adulthood, although many of these relationships could be explained in part by parents' sociodemographic characteristics or the frequency of school moves," the investigators wrote in conclusion.

Several studies have suggested associations between frequent relocation during childhood and specific adverse health effects in adulthood. Others have failed to document an association.

Brown and co-authors sought to expand on previous research by examining the relationship between frequent relocation in childhood and a broad range of health outcomes and behaviors in adolescence and adulthood.

Investigators analyzed data on a subset of participants in the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. The overall trial followed three age cohorts, whose ages were about 15, 35, and 55 at baseline in 1987-1988.

Brown and co-authors analyzed data for 850 participants in the youngest cohort, focusing on data collection at two points in time during 20 years of follow-up: when participants were approximately 18 and 35 (data-collection waves 2 and 5, respectively).

Residential mobility was determined by the number of addresses given for respondents from birth to 18, using information provided by parents and gleaned from self-reports.

By age 18 (wave 2), 13.5% of participants no longer lived at the family home. Assuming the most recent move was from the family household, investigators excluded one reported move from wave-2 data in an effort to limit the analysis to family moves, resulting in a maximum of six moves.

The study comprised four health domains: physical health measures (body mass index, waist:hip ratio, lung function, and blood pressure); overall health (long-term illness and self-rated general health); psychological distress (general, suicidal ideation, intentional self-injury, anxiety); and health behaviors (heavy alcohol use, illicit-drug use, smoking).

None of the measures of physical health had a significant association with residential relocation at either data-collection period.

Frequent moving did not affect overall health at first follow-up, but study participants who moved at least three times during childhood had significantly higher odds ratios for long-term health issues (OR 1.80 to 1.90) at the second follow-up.

At first follow-up, the odds for psychological distress had increased significantly in frequent movers, averaging about 1.60 across a range of statistical models. Suicidal ideation manifested even more prominently (OR 2.74, 2.77 in two models and elevated in all others).

The odds for illicit drug use exceeded 2.00 at first follow-up in models for participants who moved at least three times during childhood. The odds for smoking ranged from 1.5 to 1.75 in all models.

At second follow-up, the likelihood of long-term health issues reached statistical significance for three or more moves in two different models (OR 1.80, 1.88) and was elevated in all other analyses for participants who moved once or twice during childhood, as well as those who moved three or more times.

For participants who moved at least three times, the likelihood of illicit drug use remained elevated at 1.90 to 2.12 across all models at the second follow-up.

"School mobility appeared to be more important than parents' sociodemographic characteristics in attenuating the relationship between childhood mobility and health," the authors wrote in their discussion of factors that influenced associations between frequent moving and health status.

"Long-distance residential moves involving a change of school may cause more disruption to education and family life than a residential move alone, and it is possible that strong social bonds and networks may be lost or lower in frequent residential movers who also change school."

By Charles Bankhead