Millions of American families struggle to find and keep stable housing — and the fight to do so may end up harming kids’ health.

Researchers found that when families faced various types of “housing instability,” moms had a higher risk of depression and kids were more likely to be in “fair” to “poor” health.

It wasn’t only overt homelessness that seemed to take a toll. Kids were also at a heightened risk of poor health when their families moved around a lot, or struggled to make the rent.

It’s not clear exactly why, said lead researcher Dr. Megan Sandel, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.

But, she said, “having a stable home is a foundation to thriving.”

And this study shows that low-income families commonly lack that vital stability, Sandel added.

The findings were based on more than 22,000 low-income families who visited primary care clinics or ERs in five U.S. cities.

Of those surveyed, one-third had faced a housing problem; 12 percent had been homeless during their children’s lifetime; another 8 percent had been forced to move at least twice in the past year; and 27 percent had fallen behind on the rent in the past year.

When those circumstances hit, mothers were almost three times more likely to report depression symptoms on a screening test. And parents were 41 percent more likely to rate their child’s health as only fair to poor.

The findings were published online Jan. 22 in the journal Pediatrics.

Read more at Healthday News