The University of Adelaide – A new study, jointly conducted by the University of Adelaide and University of Essex, has found that renting, rather than owning, a private-sector home leads to faster biological ageing.
The negative health impacts of renting were shown to be greater than those of experiencing unemployment or being a former smoker.
“Our findings demonstrate that housing circumstances have a significant impact on biological ageing, even more so than other important social determinants, such as unemployment, for example, and therefore health impacts should be an important consideration shaping housing policies,” said lead researcher Dr Amy Clair, from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Housing Research.
Biological aging refers to cumulative damage to the body’s tissues and cells, irrespective of chronological age.
Some aspects of housing were linked with faster biological ageing regardless of whether a person rents or owns their home, including repeated payment arrears and pollution.
The researchers found it is likely that the insecurity and poor affordability of private rented homes is driving the link between renting and biological ageing.
“We hope to build on this work using data from different countries and exploring whether the association between housing tenure and biological ageing changes over time,” said Dr Clair.
The researchers also found the epigenetic impacts of renting are potentially reversible, making the implementation of health interventions for renters all the more necessary.
“Policies to reduce the stress and uncertainty associated with private renting, such as ending ‘no-grounds’ evictions, limiting rent increases, and improving conditions may go some way to reducing the negative impacts of private renting,” said the University of Adelaide’s Professor of Housing Research, Emma Baker, who also contributed to the study.
This study used data from surveys of 1420 adults in Great Britain and took into account elements of housing such as tenure, meaning whether a person rents or owns their home; building type; government financial support available to renters; the presence of central heating, as a proxy for adequate warmth; and whether the house was in an urban or rural area.
As this was an observational study on an all-white and European population, the researchers acknowledge there are limitations to their findings, but suggest they are likely to be relevant to housing and health elsewhere, particularly to countries with similar housing policies, such as Australia.
“There are many similarities between the housing policy approaches of the UK and Australia – private renters in both countries have very limited security of tenure and face high costs. It is therefore likely that private renters in Australia might also experience accelerated biological ageing,” said Dr Clair.
The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.