I never thought I would say this, but I don’t want my children to come home. When the first one left for university four years ago it took a bit of getting used to, but we still had her sister to keep us entertained.

Two years later, when she too left, it hit me quite hard, seeing both their bedrooms empty. I would often see children walking home from school who looked like my youngest daughter from behind, with a similar coat and long brown hair. It saddened me that she would not be banging on the door having mislaid her key, and rushing in with all her news.

But it was not long before my husband and I became accustomed to having the house to ourselves. There were no late-night arguments about lights being turned on and off, no squabbles about clothing lost in our ‘black hole’ laundry basket, and - best of all - our food bill plummeted.

Having just the two of us to think about was, dare I say it, liberating. Now a study has revealed that parents appreciate their freedom so much that if their children return to the family nest, the effect can be as bad as suffering an illness or disability.

I wouldn’t go that far and it is ridiculous to make such a comparison, but I know that, were this to happen, I would harbour far more negative than positive feelings.

Researchers from the London School of Economics analysed research from parents of ‘boomerang’ children aged between 50 and 75 from 17 European countries, examining factors such as health, ageing and retirement.

It found that mothers and fathers suffer distress on behalf of their offspring if they come back due to a lost a job or relationship breakdown, but the biggest blow is the loss of their own independence and the new quality of life they are experiencing.

They found that when an adult child returns, the parents suffer a loss of ‘feelings of control, autonomy, pleasure and self-realisation’.

Between six and seven million young people aged between 15 and 34 live with their parents, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is a million up on 20 years ago, driven largely by the high cost of housing and increasing pressure on young people’s finances, including the need to repay student debt. They found that children moving back home are also likely to place extra pressures on the ‘bank of mum and dad’.

Of course I would never, ever, turn away my children in any situation. Our home is their home, and were they to come back for whatever reason I would welcome them with open arms. But I hope that never happens.

I feel strongly that, dire emergencies aside, it is better for them if they stay away and carve out their own life.

When I left home to go to university I did not think for a moment that I would return, and I didn’t. It was not all plain sailing, I had ups and down, but I valued my independence and no matter what happened, wild horses could not have dragged me back.

I realise it is not so easy for young people these days, especially with student debts and the cost of housing, but coming back to the family nest brings with it the danger of their becoming so accustomed to home comforts they may never leave.

In our case that is not likely to happen - my daughters say they have far more trappings of luxury in their student accommodation than in our cold, uncomfortable, spartan house.