Marcus McPhillips
Marcus McPhillips

By Marcus McPhillips

The impact of housing problems on mental health

Housing and Mental Health are two issues which have become prominent in public debate over recent years (and rightly so). Here at Shelter, every day in our services we see how housing problems can spill over into other parts of people’s lives: affecting their relationships, their work, and their health.

In 2013 we published research into the effects bad housing can have on people’s health, helping to further the debate on the links between health and housing. So we decided to do some more research, specifically about mental health, in order to increase awareness of the damaging overlap between housing and mental health issues.

In partnership with ComRes, we undertook an exciting two-stage research project in the first part of 2017. This research is central to Shelter’s 2017 Spring Advice and Services Campaign, launching today and it has been a project that has been absolutely fascinating to work on.

This blog will give you the key findings from both stages of the research. All of these findings, and many more, can be found in our full report The impact of housing problems on mental health 

Our Research with 20 GPs

In early 2017, we interviewed twenty GPs in 6 of England’s largest cities: London (four GPs), Manchester (four), Birmingham (four), Bristol (three), Sheffield (three) and Newcastle (two).

 The top three things GPs told us

1: Without prompts, GPs saw housing issues playing a role in their patient’s mental health problems, both as a primary cause and also as an exacerbating factor. Poor conditions were the housing issue which GPs most frequently linked to mental health problems, followed by the affordability of rent/mortgage payments and the destabilising effects of insecure tenancies.

2: Where housing was seen as the primary cause of mental health conditions, the most commonly cited mental health conditions were anxiety and depression.

Birmingham quote 3: Where patients came to GPs with a mental health condition that was linked to housing problems, some GPs felt they lacked support to deal with the housing issue properly. This led to worse outcomes for the patient.

Bristol quote

 If you are a professional in the Health or Housing sector and want to know about our services, you can read more here.

What the English public say about mental health

3,509 English adults were interviewed online between 17th and 23rd February 2017. The data were weighted to be representative of all English adults.

The top three things people told us

1: 1 in 5 English adults (21%) not only have had a housing issue in the last 5 years, but say that it had negative impacts upon their mental health. This is equivalent to over 8 million people affected in this way.

2: One in 20 adults have visited their GP in the last 5 years with a mental health issue related to their housing. One in 40 adults have done so over an issue specifically related to housing affordability.

3: 3 in 10 adults who have had a housing problem in the last five years, not only said that it had a negative mental health impact, but also that they had had no issue with their mental health before the housing issue.

These shocking findings suggest housing issues which are not being dealt with effectively may be creating extra pressure on public services and frontline GPs.  You can access the full directory of Shelter’s advice services here.

Conclusion

Our research has found that not only is housing exacerbating mental health issues, creating more serious issues for people to deal with alone, or with the assistance of health professionals, but it has actually helped create new mental health problems for some people.

Given we are talking about the mental health of millions of adults being affected by housing issues in the last five years alone, the cost of inaction, both personal and social, could be vast. The harmful link between housing and mental health needs to be addressed, as a priority. We at Shelter hope that today’s exciting research will help do that.

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