A new study conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex in the UK has found that returning to live with parents can have a positive effect on young adults’ mental health. The study, published in the journal Advance in Life Course Research, is the first of its kind in the UK to look at the impact of returning home on the mental health of adult children.
The study, which used data from 11 waves of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) and focused on young adults aged 21–35, found that returning to the parental home was associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms measured using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). However, the effect was small and did not vary by gender, employment status, partnership status, or presence of a co-resident biological child. No associations were found with changes in the Mental Component Summary (MCS) score of the Short Form Health Survey (SF-12).
The study also found that over the period of observation, 15% of young adults made one or more moves back to the parental home. This trend is seen as a response to the poor job prospects, greater financial challenges, and increasing housing costs faced by young people in the UK. The trend is also linked to the postponement of partnership and parenthood, as well as extended education.
The findings of the study surprised demographers at the ISER, who were expecting to find that moving back home had a negative effect on the mental health of young adults. Past research has shown that parents experience a dip in mental health when their adult children return to live at the family home.
Although cross-sectional results from the UK have shown that the mental health of young adults living with parents is worse than that of young adults living independently, the new study found no evidence that returning to the parental home was associated with a deterioration in young adults’ mental health. On the contrary, returns home was associated with a slight reduction in depressive symptoms, suggesting that the benefits of parental support may outweigh the possible negative impacts of the inability to maintain residential independence.
The study’s authors note that further research is needed to assess the extent to which these findings reflect the UK context. The study did not take into account relevant factors such as parental housing and resources, the presence of siblings and step-kin in the parental household, and the quality of relationships with parents. Further cross-national research is also needed to assess the extent to which these results may be specific to the UK context, especially as housing options for young people in the UK are particularly constrained.
The study’s findings have implications for policymakers and families. The study suggests that non-normative life course transitions in early adulthood, such as boomerang moves, may not necessarily lead to detrimental health effects for young adults. Moreover, the additional support available from parents may be beneficial. Families may benefit from more support and resources to help young adults make successful transitions to adulthood, such as affordable housing and job training programs.
Overall, the study provides new insights into the impact of returning home on the mental health of young adults. The study’s authors note that their findings challenge the prevailing assumption that returning to the parental home is always a negative experience for young adults. Instead, the study suggests that returning home can provide much-needed support and resources that may be beneficial for young adults’ mental health.
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