Renting linked to faster biological ageing: study

Thursday, 12 October, 2023

Renting linked to faster biological ageing: study

Renting, rather than owning a private sector home, has a stronger link to faster ‘biological ageing’ compared to unemployment or being a former smoker, suggests a new study from the University of Adelaide and University of Essex.

The study used data from surveys of 1420 adults in Great Britain and took into account elements of housing such as tenure, building type, government financial support available to renters, the presence of central heating, and whether the house was in an urban or rural area.

Blood samples were used to measure the ‘biological’ age — the cumulative damage to the body’s tissues and cells — of people in a UK household study and compared these biological age scores with their housing situation.

“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,” lead researcher Dr Amy Clair, from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Housing Research, said.

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. Researchers also found that the insecurity and poor affordability of private rented homes is driving the link between renting and biological ageing.

“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.

As this was an observational study on an all-white and European population, the researchers acknowledged the limitations to their findings, but suggested 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,” Clair said.

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

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