How Does Housing Stability Affect Mental Health?

Date Published: 
May 3rd, 2023

A new analysis from the Urban Institute discusses ongoing research into the effects of housing stability on mental health. The piece looks at numerous studies that investigate the cyclical nature of housing instability and mental health challenges.

For people with less-severe mental health challenges, long-term affordability stress caused by high housing cost burdens led to negative effects on self-reported social, emotional, and mental functioning. This was true for renters and homeowners. Meanwhile, those who missed mortgage payments or struggled to make such payments experienced depression, feelings of shame, social isolation, and anxiety. The analysis cites one studyon housing assistance in New Haven, Connecticut, which found that people who received rental assistance reported significantly less psychological distress than those on waiting lists, suggesting rental assistance can help support mental health among people earning lower incomes.

Several studies cited in the analysis also found that people who have more severe mental illness and disabilities have more difficulty obtaining stable housing. A testing study that examined how housing providers treated those experiencing mental illness or a developmental disability found that providers were less responsive to housing applications, while people were given negative responses for reasonable accommodation and were encouraged to look for other units.

Finally, the analysis discusses research into how housing serves as a cost-effective support for people experiencing homelessness with severe and persistent mental illness. While noting that housing isn’t the only intervention needed, the researchers reiterated that it is a critical component of supporting people experiencing homelessness and mental illness. The brief cited a randomized control study focused on individuals experiencing housing instability and severe mental health challenges, which found that those who were randomly assigned to supportive housing with a care support team demonstrated higher housing stability and higher scores for psychological well-being. The analysis also cited a separate systemic review of 26 studies that examines the cost savings of the Housing First programs while also increasing housing stability and quality of life for individuals.


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