Housing Affordability and Health Among Homeowners and Renters

A study of whether housing affordability is linked to health outcomes found associations between unaffordable housing, cost-related health outcomes and some chronic conditions.

The authors analyzed data from the 2008 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey; they used propensity score methods to compare health status reports of people living in unaffordable housing to those in affordable housing. The authors also collected respondents’ self-reports of neighborhood quality, use of health care and whether they were homeowners or renters.

The 48.4 percent of respondents who reported difficulty paying for housing, and those living in unaffordable housing, were more likely to report poor health, hypertension, arthritis and cost-related health care and prescription nonadherence. There were no significant associations between housing affordability and other chronic conditions, being uninsured, emergency department visits in the last year, obesity and smoking. Renters had greater associations between housing unaffordability and reports of poor health than homeowners.

Unaffordable housing was most strongly associated with cost-related outcomes, such as prescription and health care nonadherence. It was not possible, however, to assess causal relationships between housing affordability and health. Further research is needed to determine whether unaffordable housing causes poor health and whether poor health can lead people to have trouble paying for housing.