Poor health could be linked to unaffordable housing

Nov 09, 2010 By Jessica Firger

People who cannot afford their housing are more likely to suffer from poor health, according to a new study, which also found that renters consider themselves less healthy than homeowners.

“People are dealing with a lot of competing costs in life and often have limited financial means in order to cover those costs,” said Craig Pollack, M.D., lead study author and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “What we worry about is when costs are high, some of the health care may suffer.”

The study, which appears online and in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed data from the 2008 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Survey of just more than 10,000 participants. Nearly half reported struggling to meet the cost of their home and, of that group, more than a quarter reported poor or fair self-rated health.

Those who struggled to afford their home had a significantly higher incidence of hypertension and arthritis. However there was no significant association between housing affordability and heart disease, diabetes, asthma, psychiatric conditions or being a smoker.

Most notable in their findings was the distinct difference in health among subjects who rented versus owned their property.

“If you were a renter, you were more likely to report poor self-rated health,” Pollack said.

He attributes this to the fact that renters tend to have a lower socioeconomic status and thus have limited means to pay for health needs. Even so, the current mortgage crisis has made the stress of keeping up with housing costs a global issue.

Government programs to make housing more affordable, such as housing vouchers, might have a positive influence on personal health, the study authors write, and could “help lessen the potential trade-offs that individuals and families make between housing and health.”

In analyzing the data, the researchers accounted for income differences as well as neighborhood quality differences, because many people opt to spend more money on housing in order to live in a better area. The goal of this analysis was to determine what would happen if the people were able to meet their housing costs comfortably.

Still, one public health expert believes that this study — which analyzed the data using a method known as causal inference — provides more questions than answers.

“It’s almost impossible — even if you use the best statistical pools — to tease apart health and housing without longitudinal data,” said E. Michael Foster, a professor at Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who applies causal inference to much of his own research. “Good causal inference always has to make an assumption and you want that assumption to be plausible.”

Explore further: Promoting the positive effects of nutrition on health

More information: Pollack CE, Griffin BA, Lynch J. Housing affordability and health among homeowners and renters. Am J Prev Med 39(6), 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Satisfying job leads to better mental health

Oct 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you want to have good mental health, it’s not enough to just have a job, you should also have a job that satisfies you, according to new research from The Australian National University. ...

Broken bones and medication

Oct 05, 2010

Although one in four women over 50 develops osteoporosis, most are unaware they have the disease — something Professor Suzanne Cadarette would like to change.

Recommended for you

Smoking out the facts in the E-cigarette debate

1 hour ago

Electronic cigarettes seem to have become as ubiquitous as the vapor they produce. Their popularity has been skyrocketing over the past two years, even in the midst of a fierce debate about their potential ...

Women, work and the menopause

2 hours ago

Menopausal women fear age-based discrimination in the workplace and face a glaring lack of menopause-specific support, according to new research.

Cohabiting couples differ on contraceptive use by class

3 hours ago

Most cohabiting couples intend to delay childbirth until they're married, steadily employed and financially stable. Despite these preferences, surprise pregnancies are common, particularly among working-class men and women ...

Nurse turnover assessments inconsistent

4 hours ago

(HealthDay)—More than 17 percent of new nurses leave their first job within one year of starting, according to research published online Aug. 25 in Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice.

User comments : 0