Approximately forty million Americans move each year. Many, if not most, of those people (as well as their children and their pets) will experience adverse reactions to the move stemming from “Relocation Stress”. Relocation stress has been linked scientifically to adverse physical and emotional consequences due to dramatic life changes surrounding a move. Relocation is among the most stressful of all life events (second only to “death of a spouse”) and therefore holds the potential for serious and even life-threatening consequences. Due to the high stress levels and subsequent taxing of the immune system, illnesses—both acute and chronic— are commonly experienced after a move, as are increases in accidents and injuries.
Relo-Stress has a long reach.
To complicate matters further, health problems related to relocation (as well as increases in accidents and injuries) can occur up to a full 18 months following the move. Many people are unaware that adverse health conditions are related to the highly stressful experience of relocating and most new hires do not report these adjustment- and stress-related health problems to their employers.
How the Environment Affects Your Ability to Adapt After a Move
A number of environmental factors—frequently far off the radar of most people—appear to play a significant role in determining how well people adapt during the relocation process. The relationship people have with their physical environment is far-reaching and intensely personal. It develops while we are still young children and leaves an indelible imprint. While usually remaining outside of the realm of consciousness, these environmental factors can have a significant impact on making us feel uncomfortable, uneasy and prone to recoil from certain environments, and warm and inexplicably drawn towards other places. Established years earlier and anchored firmly in the unconscious, our reactions to our external environments can play a significant role in the degree to which we adapt to the transition following a move.
Why should we care? Our relationships with the old and the new environments can directly affect our moods, perspectives and ultimately, important life choices—including about where to live. These relationships can also affect the level of stress we experience both before and after a move, and therefore our level of adjustment and well-being. Future blog articles will explore the findings of our own and other scientists’ research findings about how our relationships with the physical environment (including factors like pre-relocation attachment and person-environment fit) can affect our health and well-being during the stressful period of relocation and what steps can be taken to minimize adverse reactions and enhance the likelihood of a smooth transition.