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Life transitions are major, non-biological life changes, which, especially if unexpected or involuntary, can negatively impact a person’s sense of self and health (1). These include bereavement, job loss, retirement, and more. Although there are many positive life transitions, such as job gain, going to university, moving home, or becoming a parent, even these can be sources of stress (2).


Life Transitions Risk/Pro

Risk and/or Protective Factor

Within social and family changes, there are several risk factors for mental health difficulties. For example, becoming a carer has been associated with increased depression and stress than in non-carers (3). Furthermore, bereavement, such as parental loss, is also associated with negative effects on psychological well-being (4). Seemingly positive family changes, such as becoming a parent, can still be a risk factor for mental health difficulties, and may involve anxiety, depression, or postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (5).

Similarly, there are risk factors for mental health in relation to employment changes. For example, job loss, unemployment, and retirement  have been associated with declines in mental health, such as increased depressive symptoms (6,7). This may be as they lead to changes in income, housing and social environment (8); which are all determinants of mental health. Although job gain can result in protective factors for mental health, such as improved job satisfaction and job security (9), it has also been associated with increased psychological strain (10).

Educational transitions can also be a risk factor for mental health. While university can be an exciting experience, starting university has also been linked to increased stress as it often involves living alone for the first time, handling finances independently, and making new friends (11).

Moving houses has been associated with poor mental health in children and young people, as this can result in a loss of familiarity and geographical closeness to family and friends (12,13).



1.        Liddle J, Carlson G, McKenna K. Using a Matrix in Life Transition Research. Qual Health Res. 2004;14(10):1396–417.

2.        Stress | Mental Health Foundation [Internet]. Mental Health Foundation. 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 24]. Available from:

3.        Pinquart M, Sörensen S. Differences between caregivers and noncaregivers in psychological health and physical health: A meta-analysis. Psychol Aging [Internet]. 2003 Jun [cited 2021 Feb 2];18(2):250–67. Available from: /record/2003-05349-011

4.        Marks NF, Jun H, Song J. Death of parents and adult psychological and physical well-being: A prospective U.S. national study. J Fam Issues [Internet]. 2007 Dec [cited 2021 Jan 18];28(12):1611–38. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC2638056/?report=abstract

5.        Parfitt Y, Ayers S. Transition to parenthood and mental health in first-time parents. Infant Ment Health J. 2014;35(3):263–73.

6.        Paul KI, Moser K. Unemployment impairs mental health: Meta-analyses. J Vocat Behav. 2009 Jun 1;74(3):264–82.

7.        Segel-Karpas D, Ayalon L, Lachman ME. Retirement and depressive symptoms: A 10-year cross-lagged analysis. Psychiatry Res [Internet]. 2018 Nov 1 [cited 2021 Feb 2];269:565–70. Available from:

8.        Davies S. Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2013, Public Mental Health Priorities: Investing in the Evidence. London; 2014.

9.        Johnston D, Lee W-S. Extra Status and Extra Stress: Are Promotions Good for Us? Bonn; 2012.

10.      Boyce CJ, Oswald AJ. Do People Become Healthier after Being Promoted? Bonn; 2008.

11.      Macaskill A. The mental health of university students in the United Kingdom. Br J Guid Counc [Internet]. 2013 Aug [cited 2021 Mar 24];41(4):426–41. Available from:

12.      Morris T, Manley D, Northstone K, Sabel CE. How do moving and other major life events impact mental health? A longitudinal analysis of UK children. Heal Place. 2017 Jul 1;46:257–66.

13.      Fisher S. Leaving home: Homesickness and the psychological effects of change and transition. In: Fisher S, Reason J, editors. Handbook of lifestress, cognition and health. New York: John Wiley & Sons; 1988. p. 41–59.


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