People living in rented homes for a long time have more symptoms of depression and lower levels of wellbeing than those who own a house, a study has found. Buying a house used to be a key development in people’s lives, providing a way to accumulate wealth as well as psychosocial benefits in terms of long-term security. However, due to the enormous increase in prices for younger generations, this has now become impossible for many. Researchers from the University of Manchester in the UK looked at the ‘housing careers’ of 7,500 people in England over the age of 50. They found that living in rented accommodation for longer – or owning accommodation for shorter lengths of time – is linked with more symptoms of depression and lower subjective quality of later life.
This indicates that duration of tenure really matters, and strengthens the idea that living in rented housing for longer exposes people to more risks in terms of health and wellbeing, as housing quality is lower. The research found that those with the lowest wellbeing grew up in a privately owned house, but rented for the rest of their lives, which indicates downward social mobility, or at least the inability to sustain the same housing standards as in early life. On the opposite side, those with the highest wellbeing were born abroad and bought their own homes early in adult life. Moving into rented accommodation as an adult or renting for life are becoming much more dominant for the current generation, and this stresses the urgency of the need to build genuinely affordable housing in the UK.
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While having an important and obvious effect on people’s quality of life in the here and now, the study has demonstrated that it plays an equally important role in the long-term by producing wellbeing in later life. “Tenure is important not only in the here and now, but has long term effects on wellbeing,” said Bram Vanhoutte, from University of Manchester. “For older generations renting for longer is linked with lower wellbeing in later life, underlining the need to increase the availability of safe, affordable and high quality housing for the many,” he said.