The Effect of Geographic Moves on Mental Healthcare Utilization in Children

Published in: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 55, no. 2, Aug. 2014, p. 276-280

Posted on RAND.org on March 05, 2015

by Jeffrey Millegan, Robert McLay, Charles C. Engel

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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.

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