Recent figures show that there are around 1.23 million young people aged between 25 and 34 still live in the family home, the so-called ‘boomerang generation.’
But far from curing empty-nest syndrome, a new study from the London School of Economics and the University of Essex, suggests the return of adult children causes a series decline in parents’ quality of life and well-being.
The negative impact is similar to suffering an age-related disability, such as losing the ability to walk or get dressed.
Dr Marco Tosi of LSE’s Department of Social Policy: “When children leave the parental home, marital relationships improve and parents find a new equilibrium.
“They enjoy this stage in life, finding new hobbies and activities. When adult children move back, it is a violation of that equilibrium.”
According to the Office for National Statistics around quarter of young adults in Britain are living with their parents, the highest number since records began in 1996. If the trend continues another 500,000 will move back home in the next decade, and 100,000 say they believe they will never have the means to move out.
To find out the impact of the boomerang generation on parents, LSE researchers analysed quality of life data from 1070 parents across 17 European countries between 2007 and 2015.
Quality of Life was measured by “feelings of control, autonomy, pleasure and self-realisation in everyday life.”
They found that parents’ quality of life decreased when an adult child moved back to an ‘empty nest’, regardless of the reason for their return.
However, there was no effect when other children still lived at home.
Professor Emily Grundy of LSE’s Department of Social Policy, and the University of Essex, said government policy to improve housing availability could help not just young people, but also their parents.
“The research shows that what happens to one generation has impacts on other generations in the family, so making it easier for young adults to live independently if they wish, eg. through housing availability, may benefit not just them but also their parents,” she said.
The researchers found that the downturn in quality of life remained even when allowing for the reason a child moved back home. For example, it might be expected that parents would be less happy if a child came because of unemployment or divorce.
But even when controlling for those events, parental well-being was still badly affected.
Writing in the journal Social Science & Medicine, the authors conclude: “Over the past half century, intergenerational co-residence has declined dramatically in Western countries.
“However, this pattern has recently altered, and in some countries multigenerational co-residence has increased; a shift interpreted as a family response to high unemployment rates, poor job prospects and financial hardship among young adults.
"The findings show that returning home was correlated with a decline in parent’s quality of life when there were no other children in the parental home.
“Parents enjoy their independence when their children leave the home, and refilling an empty nest may be regarded as a violation of this life course stage.”