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The impact of childhood residential mobility on mental health outcomes in adolescence and early adulthood: a record linkage study


Background Understanding the causes of poor mental health in early childhood and adolescence is important as this can be a significant determinant of mental well-being in later years. One potential and relatively unexplored factor is residential mobility in formative years. Previous studies have been relatively small and potentially limited due to methodological issues. The main aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between early residential instability and poor mental health among adolescents and young adults in Northern Ireland.

Methods A Census-based record linkage study of 28% of children aged 0–8 years in 2001 in Northern Ireland (n=49 762) was conducted, with six monthly address change assessments from health registration data and self-reported mental health status from the 2011 Census. Logistic regression models were built adjusting for socioeconomic status (SES), household composition and marital dissolution.

Results There was a graded relationship between the number of address changes and mental ill-health (adjusted OR 3.67, 95% CIs 2.11 to 6.39 for 5 or more moves). This relationship was not modified by SES or household composition. Marital dissolution was associated with poor mental health but did not modify the relationship between address change and mental health (p=0.206). There was some indication that movement after the age of five was associated with an increased likelihood of poor mental health.

Conclusions This large study clearly confirms the close relationship between address change in early years and later poor mental health. Residential mobility may be a useful marker for children at risk of poorer mental health in adolescence and early adulthood.

  • Lifecourse / Childhood Circumstances
  • Life course epidemiology

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