Moving to a new home is not only stressful, it can also have an adverse effect on health. New research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests people who have lived in various places growing up, including those with parents or guardians in the military, have an increased risk of suicide, substance misuse, and even early death.

Researchers collected and analyzed data from 1.4 million people born in Denmark from 1971 to 1997. They had access to every residence children lived in from birth to age 14, after which point they were then tracked from age 15 through their early 40s. To measure how much of an impact moving during early life and as a teen had on health, researchers documented how old participants were at the time of each move. They also used a number of comprehensive national registries to measure and correlate these moves with adverse health outcomes in adulthood, including attempted suicide, violent criminality, psychiatric illness, substance misuse, and natural and unnatural deaths.

Overall, 37 percent had moved house at least once before their 15th birthday, many of which also moved frequently during infancy. However, people who moved more frequently during early adolescence were most likely to have adverse health outcomes later in life. Researchers found that each additional move was associated with an “incremental risk increase. For example, health risks increased with multiple moves at any age versus a single move, and an even sharper spike for violent offending was observed in those who moved multiple times within a single year. What's more, the older children were when they moved, the more likely they were to attempt suicide. This was markedly raised if multiple annual relocations occurred when they were between the ages of 12 and 14.

Families' socioeconomic status (SES) didn't determine greater risk as researchers first hypothesized. After looking at income, education, and employment status, researchers found frequent moving affected all socioeconomic levels equally.

"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," said lead investigator Dr. Roger T. Webb, of the University of Manchester, in a press release. "Health and social services, schools, and other public agencies should be vigilant of the psychological needs of relocated adolescents, including those from affluent as well as deprived families."

This isn’t the first study to suggest moving has harmful effects on children’s health. Prior studies have shown it can affect a child’s cognitive and social development and school participation, as well as their ability to build relationships. One study in particular found that children who moved around a lot had an increased risk of psychotic-like symptoms.

This isn’t surprising when you think about it: Changing schools and leaving good friends behind can be stressful and depressing. The new study, however, shows us the adverse effects may be more serious than once thought. As Medical Daily previously reported, parents can help alleviate the negative impact of moving or make the transition easier by talking to their children before the move or allowing them to reconnect with their old friends from time to time by visiting or by encouraging them to send letters.

Source: Webb R, Pedersen C. Adverse Outcomes to Early Middle Age Linked With Childhood Residential Mobility. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2016.