Rentals and mortgages are linked to poor health in the early stages of the pandemic

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In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to pay rent or mortgage payments was strongly associated with health and mental disorders, according to a new study by the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Gregory Bushman

Gregory Bushman

“The housing insecurity and deprivation associated with COVID-19 has contributed to increasing health inequities in the United States,” said Gregory Bushman, UM doctoral student in public health and lead author of the study. “On the other hand, stable housing could reduce the negative health impacts of some of the hardships people faced during the pandemic, such as job loss.”

For their study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health, Bushman and Roshanak Mehdipana analyzed the responses from the US Household Heart Rate Survey collected at the start of the pandemic between April and July 2020.

Roshanak Mehdipana

Roshanak Mehdipana

According to the survey, 22% of homeowners did not pay mortgages, 46% paid mortgages and 32% rented houses.

Researchers examined how the deprivations associated with COVID-19, such as job loss, food insecurity and inability to pay housing costs, affected respondents’ assessments of self-reported health and mental disorders.

They found that, compared to those without mortgages, homeowners with mortgages and tenants reported worse health conditions and higher rates of mental illness. In addition, they found that differences in self-reported health between these groups grew over time.

“Homeowners with mortgages and tenants suffered more from job loss, mental health problems and self-reported health at a much higher level compared to homeowners without mortgages and debt,” said Mehdipana, assistant professor of health behavior and health education and senior author of the study. … … “We know that housing is a social determinant of health. We need to invest in both research and policies to develop affordable, adequate and affordable housing in cities to reduce health inequities. ”

Some of the research findings include:

  • Tenants were more likely to experience job loss (58%), food insecurity (48%), and inability to pay housing-related costs during this period (32%) than homeowners. Tenants also reported the poorest self-reported health and the highest incidence of mental disorders.
  • Food insecurity and low confidence in rent / mortgage payments were associated with low self-esteem health and severe mental illness among both renters and homeowners.
  • Individuals who owned their home without mortgage debt reported better self-esteem and the lowest incidence of mental disorders.

Mehdipana said the study highlights the importance of housing as a determinant of health. In 2019, about 37 million Americans paid more than 30% of their household income for monthly housing costs. And another 17.6 million used to spend more than half of their income on housing costs. These numbers are expected to worsen after the pandemic.

“In addition, this is the first time we are seeing more people over 65 with mortgages that we have never seen before,” she said. “Our study highlights how important housing is, especially at a time when the first or first preventive measure was to stay at home and wash your hands. If you do not have a home, or your home is unstable, and you do not have running water to wash your hands, then you are now at a higher risk of COVID-19 and a host of other diseases and problems. ”

The researchers hope to continue their research using new data to understand how existing programs and policies can reduce the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

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