Housing, Poverty, and Wellbeing

Housing, Poverty, Wellbeing

The places we live in and the people we live around all impact on our wellbeing. But nowhere exerts a more powerful effect on our wellbeing than our home; it impacts our health, our relationships, our sense of belonging, and even our educational attainment. 

Most of the evidence to date shows the impact of the physical features of a house to health, and the negative impacts of having a home that is cold, damp, or moldy.  Much less is known about how the home affects our subjective wellbeing. How does the lack of affordable housing, for example, impact on wellbeing and sense of security? How does whom you rent from - a private landlord or a social landlord – affect perceptions of control in your life?    

These are some of the questions we’re exploring in a study for the UK’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation – led by the University of York - exploring poverty, wellbeing and housing circumstances.  Jenny Roe has supervised the quantitative component of a mixed methods study exploring poverty, housing and wellbeing over two years.  Our first-wave survey confirms that the physical conditions of the home affect wellbeing (ie. damp, warmth, family space).  Other findings showed that the neighborhood context (i.e. problematic neighbours, noise from neighbors) and individual financial circumstances affected wellbeing outcomes.  But a number of previously unidentified factors emerged as predictors of wellbeing in our study including satisfaction with the wider neighborhood, the lack of pleasant places to sit outside, and the importance of having a presentable home to invite friends and family to.  We are currently conducting the second-wave survey to explore if changes in someone’s housing circumstances – for example, changes in the affordability of a rental home – has any positive or negative effect on wellbeing.