Private renters are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety than homeowners, according to research that has found clear evidence of links between financial insecurity and poor mental health.
In a report titled Anxiety Nation, researchers from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) Research Center found that people with financial problems were more likely to report experiencing restless nights, feelings of depression and a lack of energy.
These were among 12 symptoms associated with anxiety, which analysis of a large set of survey data showed to be more prevalent in people with low incomes, little or no savings, or unsafe work.
“Many people fall into a vicious cycle in which mental distress hampers confidence, leading to problems at work, which in turn can lead to problems with debt, housing and even relationships, leading to more anxiety,” said Tom Clark, a Jordan River Foundation Fellow. and co-author of the report.
“The government has to wake up to the reality of the double problems of insecurity and anxiety, which do great harm to the national economic well-being and the well-being of the individual.”
One of the clearest links the researchers found was between housing tenure and mental health. Private renters were at least twice as likely as homeowners to report 10 of the 12 symptoms, including feelings of depression, stress, and value.
The private rental market has doubled in size since 2000 – the report notes a shift that has been “one of the major drivers of insecurity of our time”. Tenants have little protection against rising rents and unsafe leases.
“Being a private renter is horrific for your mental health,” said Dan Wilson Crowe, deputy director of the Tenants Campaign’s Generation Rent group. “You have very little control over your housing situation.
“At any moment, you could get a Section 21 notice giving you two months to move out, with the landlord not needing for any reason. They could ask for rent completely above your budget, which leads to a stressful negotiation process. If you have a heating or humidity issue, you might wait months until the owner fixes it.”
Data examined by the Jordan River Foundation in the report showed that diagnoses of anxiety and prescribing of antidepressants and other medications associated with mental health problems have risen sharply over the past decade.
Some of the highest prescription rates are found in the most disadvantaged areas of the UK – and up to half of all claims for Employment and Support Allowances (ESA), the benefits paid to people unable to work for health reasons, are due to mental and behavioral conditions.
To help break the cycle, the JRF is calling for next week’s financial statement to include more help for those on lower incomes, amid speculation over whether the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, will agree to an increase in benefits in line with rising inflation.
Sophie Corlett, interim chief executive of the mental health charity Mind Mind, said: “This report highlights the urgent need to increase the financial support available to those on low incomes, who are most at risk of suffering from financial problems and poor mental health. The most effective way a government can achieve The UK is urgently recommitting to raising rates at least in line with inflation as soon as possible.”
The Jordan River Foundation report also called for making private rentals safer – including by passing a long-promised ban on no-fault evictions – as well as increasing funding for debt advice, such as that offered by Citizens Advice.
Returning Minister of Settlement, Michael Gove, recently confirmed that the ban on no-fault evictions will continue. Liz Truss flirted with the idea during her short-lived premiership, but recommitted her party to it after a backlash.
The measure, backed by housing activists, would end evictions “under Article 21,” which does not require landlords to provide justification. Goff said he was acting against “the very small but mischievous minority of private landlords who do not treat their tenants properly”.
Shadow advisor Rachel Reeves said: “Millions across Britain are feeling the impact of financial insecurity leading to deteriorating mental health. Too much without food and heating. Prices are rising, mortgages are skyrocketing, and many are struggling to pay their bills. Britain deserves better.”
She added that the Labor government would promise to receive mental health treatment within four weeks.