June 4th, 2010
05:58 PM ET

Frequent moves in childhood linked to poor outcomes

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

The stress of moving on children may carry negative effects on mental health and happiness in adulthood, a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests.

People who had moved more as children were more likely to report lower life satisfaction and psychological well-being, regardless of age, gender and education level. These people also said they had fewer quality social relationships in adulthood than those who moved less in their youth.

Study participants came from a sample of more than 7,000 Americans adults who were contacted in 1994 and 1995. Nearly 5,000 of them completed additional surveys 10 years later that included questions about life satisfaction, personality, and how many times they moved to a "totally new neighborhood or town" as children.

Personality may play a big role in this, the authors wrote. Previous research has shown that high extraversion and low neuroticism are strongly associated with most aspects of well-being. The authors of the current study found that introverted participants who said they had moved frequently as children said they had lower levels of life satisfaction and psychological well-being than introverts who had not moved often. Introverts who had moved a lot as children also had a small increased likelihood of dying between survey periods.

When children move to different places, they are forced to leave their friendships behind and make new ones, which isn't always easy, the authors note. Introverted children may have a harder time joining a new social circle and developing close relationships than more outgoing kids, meaning the shy ones may have more of a negative experience adjusting.

One limitation of the study is that some adults may not remember how many times they moved to a new neighborhood as children, and these results come from self-reported data. Another is that some participants may not have known what constituted a "totally new neighborhood," or what ages are included in "childhood," when taking the survey.

Further research should be done on the subject before the findings should influence anyone's decisions about moving, the authors wrote.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.