Frequent Home Moves May Increase a Child’s Risk of Psychosis


The largest risk was among 16- to 19-year-olds.

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Children whose families move homes frequently may be at increased risk for serious psychiatric illness.

Researchers followed 1,440,383 children from birth to age 29, including data on residential moves. They found 4,537 cases of psychosis, symptoms of which can include hallucinations and delusions.

The more often children under 19 moved, the greater their risk for psychosis. The largest effect was among 16- to 19-year-olds. For them, two or three moves more than tripled the risk for psychosis, and four or more nearly quadrupled the risk.

After age 20, there was no association between moving and illness.

The study, in JAMA Psychiatry, controlled for sex, foreign background, parental death, parental history of severe mental illness, income and mother’s age at birth, but had no data for bullying or physical or sexual abuse.

“Moving once or twice over the course of a childhood won’t have much effect,” said the lead author, James B. Kirkbride, an associate professor at University College London. “But moving once a year for four or five years — it would seem that those kids would face a risk. So we’d want to build a social network for those children who are moving frequently, particularly in late adolescence, when forming friendships can be vital for lifelong resistance to psychotic illness.”



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