Rocketing number of adults moving back in with their parents nears five million

New UK study finds ‘boomerang’ adults’ mental health improves despite the loss of independence

A new study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research has found that the boomerang generation of adults, aged 21-35 moving back in with their parents, experience improved mental health as a result.. Previous studies have looked at the impact on parents and found that their mental health dips when their adult children return to the family home, but this is the first UK research to look at the mental health impact of the move back home on the young returnees.

Using data from the Economic and Social Research Council-funded UK Household Longitudinal Study, Understanding Society, the researchers found 15 per cent of young adults aged 21-35 had moved back home to their parents at some point during the years 2009-2020.

Many young adults move back home because they cannot afford to rent, because of relationship breakdown or because they want to save for mortgage deposits which can take many years.

The researchers were surprised to find that adult children experience a lift in mental health when they move back home, rather than a dip following their loss of independence.

Co- author Professor Emily Grundy suggests this may be because they are escaping the stress of poor living conditions in the UK’s under-regulated rental housing sector.

“It seems as though the benefits of parental support outweigh any negative impact of moving back home and losing that feeling of independence. We were surprised to find this effect but the pressures of living in poor quality, expensive rented housing these days are well documented.  We know that this boomerang generation are moving back home out of necessity but we did not know how it was impacting on their mental health.

Other recent research has found that living in cold homes can cause serious harm to mental health. It could be that the comfort and security of the parental home is a sanctuary to young adults worn down by the struggles of living in high-cost and poor-quality rented accommodation.”  

According to the Office of National Statistics, the last UK census in 2021 found the total number of adult children living with their parents was 4.9 million, a 14.7% increase from 4.2 million in 2011.

The proportion of the population that are non-dependent adult children living with their parents has increased across all ages from aged 20 to 73 years. Those aged 24 years had the largest percentage point increase (9.2%).

‘Boomerang’ Moves and Young Adults’ Mental Well-being in the United Kingdom by Dr Jiawei Wu and Professor Emily Grundy and was published in Advances in Life Course Research (8 February 2023)

Professor Emily Grundy is Professor of Population Science at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.

Dr Jiawei Wu is Senior Research Officer at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.


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