Is There a Link between Affordable Housing & Mental Health?

Research Paper Title

Mental health and prolonged exposure to unaffordable housing: a longitudinal analysis.

Background

When housing is insufficient, or poor quality, or unaffordable there are well established health effects.

Despite the pervasiveness of housing affordability problems (widely referred to as Housing Affordability Stress, HAS), little quantitative work has analysed long-term mental health effects.

The researchers examine the mental health effects of (prolonged and intermittent) patterns of exposure to housing affordability problems.

Methods

The researchers analysed a large, nationally representative longitudinal population sample of individuals, following them over five-year periods to assess the relative mental health effects of different patterns of exposure to housing affordability problems.

To maximise the number of observations and the robustness of findings, they used 15 years (2002-2016) of data, across three pooled exposure windows.

Longitudinal regression analysis with Mundlak adjustment was used to estimate the association between prolonged (constant over a 5-year period) and intermittent exposure to HAS, and mental health (as measured using the SF-36 MCS).

Results

The researchers found that, on average, both prolonged and intermittent exposure were associated with lower mental health (Beta = – 1.338 (95% CI – 2.178-0.488) and Beta = – 0.516 (95% CI – 0.868-0.164), respectively).

When they additionally adjusted for baseline mental health, thereby accounting for initial mental health status, coefficients were attenuated but remained significant.

Conclusions

Both prolonged and intermittent exposure to HAS negatively impact mental health, irrespective of baseline mental health.

Interventions that target affordable housing would benefit population mental health.

Mental health interventions should be designed with people’s housing context in mind.

Reference

Baker, E., Lester, L., Mason, K. & Bentley, R. (2020) Mental health and prolonged exposure to unaffordable housing: a longitudinal analysis. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 55(6), pp.715-721. doi: 10.1007/s00127-020-01849-1. Epub 2020 Mar 5.

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