Renting could be as bad for your health as smoking, a landmark study has shown, as it is revealed that long term renters are aging faster than homeowners.
A study conducted by the University of Adelaide and the University of Essex revealed that living in a private rental ages the biological aging process faster than owning a home, as the insecurity of renting adds stress and uncertainty. The negative health impacts of renting were shown to be greater than those of experiencing unemployment or being a former smoker.
Biological ageing refers to cumulative damage to the body’s tissues and cells, irrespective of actual age.
In a radio interview with the ABC, Professor of Housing Research at the University of Adelaide Emma Baker said the study looked at the effect of housing on people’s health. By measuring the biological age of the 1,420 participants, researchers were able to find a link between rental stress and aging.
“We estimate [the age increase] is about two and a half weeks for every year in a private rental,” she said.
“And in fact the private rental is the really interesting thing here because social rentals for some reason don’t seem to have that effect.
“So there’s something different between private renters and social renters, and we think that is most probably the security that social renters and homeowners have compared to private renters.”
The study was conducted in the UK, but Baker said the rental market was similar, perhaps even worse, in Australia, and so the results could be broadly translated.
The news came as Australia’s rental market reaches a breaking point, with soaring rents, record low availability and renters cramming into overcrowded houses.
Baker said it was hoped that the results from the study could help force a change in housing policy in Australia.
“There’s a happy story in this in the idea that, just as in say giving up smoking in a smoking campaign, you can recover some of your health,” she said.
“If we were to change the security of tenure of the private rentals for example, people are able to bounce back in terms of their health and their biological age.”
Baker said some changes could be brought in right away, such as making rentals more secure by introducing longer leases.
Ultimately, she said, it was about making things more secure for renters and creating a rental market that people can comfortably live in their whole lives.