Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 24th 2014 Contents B28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, April 24, 2014
Moving to a new area may be hard
on the mental health of children,
especially adolescents, according to
a new US study.
Based on analysis of medical records
for more than a half million children,
researchers found the chances a child
will require mental health care rise by
as much as 20 per cent after a move.
"Knowing how moves affect psy-
chological health issues in children is
important so families and healthcare
providers can anticipate those chal-
lenges and prepare accordingly," said
Jeffrey Millegan, lead author of the
study and a psychiatrist at Naval Med-
ical Centre in San Diego, California.
Although military families have a
long tradition of moving frequently,
"geographic moves are an increasingly
common part of the American expe-
rience in general as our economy
becomes more dynamic," Millegan
told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
Thirty-five million Americans---
more than ten per cent of the nation s
population---had a geographic move
in 2010, Millegan and his colleagues
write in the Journal of Adolescent
Past research has shown that kids
mental health can suffer in a move,
they write, but studies looking at civil-
ian families have trouble separating
the potentially stressful reasons for
the move from the move itself.
In military families, at least one
parent is likely to be keeping his or
her job and health benefits, so that
possible source of family stress is elim-
inated. Indeed, prior studies have
found the children of military families
act out less and have better social
competence in the context of frequent
To see whether these kids nonethe-
less show signs of difficulty with mov-
ing, the researchers looked at medical
records for six- to 17-year-old children
of active duty members from the Mil-
itary Health System Medical Data
Repository between October 1, 2006,
and September 30, 2009.
Altogether, the records for 548,336
children were included in the analysis,
and nearly 180,000---about 25 per
cent---had moved to a new city or
town at least once during the past
Researchers divided the children
into two groups by age: six to 11 years
old and 12 to 17.
They looked at whether each child
had had at least one healthcare visit---
outpatient, emergency room or hos-
pitalisation---with a mental health
diagnosis during fiscal year 2009.
The study team also collected addi-
tional data from the records about the
children and parents, including psy-
chiatric history, service branch, mil-
itary rank, gender, race and age.
Finally, they calculated the odds of
a child having a visit for mental health
diagnoses including anxiety, self-
injury, adjustment, developmental,
personality and mood disorders.
The study found that compared to
peers who had not moved, kids
between the ages of 12 and 17 who
had moved over the past year had 20
per cent higher odds of visiting the
emergency room for a psychiatric
issue, along with four per cent higher
odds of an office visit and 19 per cent
greater odds of a psychiatric hospi-
Children between the ages of six
and 11 had about three per cent higher
odds of having an office visit for men-
tal health reasons.
"It shouldn t come as a surprise to
us that adolescents in particular---
even more than younger people---have
a difficult time making adjustments,"
said Christopher Bellonci, a child and
adolescent psychiatrist at Floating
Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical
"The job of adolescents is to find
a peer group and an identity outside
of the home, and that is harder when
your peer group and school are dis-
rupted by a move when they should
provide support and strength," he told
For families with an upcoming
move, preparing kids and teens is key,
said Bellonci, who was not involved
in the study.
"Change is stressful, and parents
should talk with their kids about the
transition coming up," Bellonci said.
If possible, parents should help kids
brainstorm ways to make the new
space---such as their bedroom---their
own. Getting a chance to meet future
teachers and peers can also help
smooth the transition to a new city.
For parents and kids alike, it s all about
fostering a new support system of
friends and peers.
"The nice thing about military fam-
ilies is there is usually a pretty good
network, particularly if you are on
base housing. Tap into that network,"
Healthcare providers who work with
young people also should be aware of
the impact a geographic move can
have on the mental health of a child
"Primary care and mental health
professionals should be asking about
upcoming or recent moves and recog-
nise the potential disruptive effects it
can have on children," Millegan said.
Source: bit.ly/1gZIZLg Journal of
Adolescent Health. (Reuters Health)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
Moving can be
Children between the ages of six and 11 who had moved had about three per cent higher odds of having an
office visit for mental health reasons, according to research.
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