Instinctively,we know that a family’s housing situation impacts the physical and emotional health of the family. Usually, the link between housing and health is limited to comparing the homeless to those who have homes. There are many studies that show that homeless children are less likely to be immunized, more likely to be in poor health, more likely to be at risk for developmental delays, and have higher rates of asthma and infectious disease when compared to those who have homes. We also know that homeless children who are in school are more likely to have behavioral and academic problems. But, what about those children living in unstable homes. Those that are not homeless but are behind on rent or at risk of being homeless. There has been little research into how being behind on rent affects health. A new report from Children’s Healthwatch seeks to fill this gap.
During the course of their research, they sought to discover if the health of children and mothers in families that are behind on rent are different from those living in stable housing and those living in homeless shelters. The results of the research are presented in Behind Closed Doors: The hidden health impacts of being behind on rent.
When compared to families living in stable housing, those behind on rent are more likely to:
- Experience food and/or energy insecurity
- Receive assistance through SNAP or LIHEAP
- Make trade-offs among household expenses, such as rent and utilities, in order to pay medical bills
- Include parents who have foregone health care for themselves or another family member in order to pay basic household expenses
- Include a mother who has symptoms of depression
- Children in these families were more likely:
- to be in fair or poor health
- to be child food insecure
- to be at risk of delays in their social, emotional, motor, or cognitive development
- to be significantly below average in length or height
When compared to families living in homeless shelters, families that are behind on rent:
- More frequently report having made trade-offs among household expenses to pay medical bills
- More frequently report having forgone health care for themselves or another family member in order to pay basic household expenses
- Are almost equally likely to be in poor health
- Are only slightly less likely to experience symptoms of depression
The study also reported that households behind on rent had, on average, at least one working adult. 34% of families included a mother or other primary caregiver who had lost a job or had her hours reduced in the last year.