The effect of geographic moves on mental healthcare utilization in children

J Adolesc Health. 2014 Aug;55(2):276-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.01.009. Epub 2014 Mar 17.


Purpose: Geographic moves have been reported to have a negative impact on the mental health of children, but it is often difficult to separate the effect of the move from the circumstances that impelled it. Military populations may offer a way to examine this issue. Moves are common in military families, but parental employment and healthcare coverage remain constant.

Methods: Children of military parents with geographic moves in 2008 were compared with those without geographic moves with regard to the odds of mental health service use in 2009.

Results: This study included 548,336 children aged 6-17 years, and 179,486 (25%) children moved in 2008. Children aged 6-11 years with a geographic move had higher odds of mental health and outpatient visits (odds ratio [OR] 1.03; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01-1.06). Children aged 12-17 years with a geographic move had higher odds of mental outpatient visits (OR 1.04; 95% CI 1.01-1.07), psychiatric hospitalizations (OR 1.19; 95% CI 1.07-1.32), and emergency psychiatric visits (OR 1.20; 95% CI 1.07-1.32).

Conclusion: Children with a geographic move in the previous year have increased odds of mental health encounters. Among adolescents, this increase extends to psychiatric hospitalizations and emergency visits.

Keywords: Geographic moves; Mental health; Military.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Welfare*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Databases, Factual
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Military Personnel*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Transportation
  • United States / epidemiology