Mental Health Effects of Precarious Housing
Over the years, increasingly high housing costs in the GTA have led to precarious housing situations for low-income families. Families are being forced to spend the bulk of their income on mortgage payments and real estate costs, and are obstructed from investing in activities that support a healthy well-being.
If 60 per cent of their income is being spent on mortgage payments, how can Ontarians live a happy, healthy life?
Unfortunately, most people in precarious living situations experience a number of negative mental health effects, including depression.
Having safe, decent housing is a necessary building block to creating healthy lives for everyone. Researchers found that there’s a correlation between housing affordability and health outcomes, with 33 per cent of people saying that housing costs cause high stress and 25 per cent claiming housing costs affect sleep. To make matters worse, families in unaffordable housing are unable to spend much on healthcare, meaning that people who live stress-free in homes are the ones with the most opportunities to get proper healthcare.
With the rise of housing costs in the GTA, more families are struggling to maintain happy, healthy lives. For some families, these rising costs have made living in the GTA unattainable. With thousands of people currently on the waitlist for subsidized, affordable housing, the only alternative for these people is to settle for substandard living conditions. These are people living in crowded conditions, in buildings that are not properly maintained, or in homes in need of serious repair.
An unsafe household can create a negative chain of events that can snowball into a generation of undesirable outcomes. Unsafe homes can harm you physically, but on top of this, harmful effects to mental health are much more likely while living in unsafe housing. Unstable living situations can take a toll on everyone’s sense of control and security, and these issues are compounded if they are raising a child. Unsafe living conditions have an effect on all those involved, but it can affect the development of children more than we may think.
Families in precarious housing spend less on healthcare, and studies show a correlation between housing affordability and health outcomes. Those who live in affordable housing are more likely to receive help if they are sick.
Having good quality housing is a necessary building block in creating a healthy life. Being in a secure and stable environment give those with mental illness a greater opportunity in recovering and combating their issues. The likelihood of medical, mental and addiction problems are all higher in those living in unstable conditions compared to the general population. It’s almost impossible to individually diagnose each case, but we can start by looking at what’s common in how these issues develop. The development of a child has a prolonged effect on who they become later in life, and a stable, predictable, nurturing home is crucial in having a positive effect in emotional development.
Unfortunately, there can be many events that occur through a child’s life that create instability, leading to an impact on the child’s sense of security and eventual transformation into an adult. Financial issues, poor living conditions, addiction in a family member, divorce, unemployment and verbal/physical abuse all impact a child’s chance at normal development. Financial instability tends to negatively affect cognitive, social-emotional and academic abilities of children. Causes could be a change in houses/neighbourhoods, material needs not being met or how the parents deal with their situation. An instance in where a father voluntarily changes jobs has a better benefit to the families health and behaviour compared to the father being unexpectedly laid off.
Unstable living can alter a parent’s ability to care for children and can in turn affect them down the road. The stress from these situations they’re a part of can all snowball into these negative effects just from the inability to pay bills. It can become stressful and create negative tolls on one’s mental health. 33 per cent say housing costs cause stress and depression in their family, with 25 per cent being kept awake at night by the stress of paying their rent or mortgage.
Building a better life begins with a safe environment to call home. When a family is less worried about making home/rent payments (50 per cent of renters in the GTA spend 1/3 of income on rent), they can focus their mind, time and energy towards other priorities. Making sure families see the potential health effects of unsafe housing, and advocating for safe and secure housing as a determinant in child and youth health are a few steps needed to fight these issues.
At Habitat, we provide opportunities for low-income families to leave precarious housing. Our vision is to create a place where all families can afford a safe and decent place to live. Through our efforts, more families have the time, space and budget to live a happier, healthier life. Habitat families report being more engaged in their community, and a 60 per cent reduction on their use of food banks or other assistance programs.
You can help us make a change in the lives of families and individuals in need. Donate to Habitat today and be a part of the change that is happening all across Halton, Mississauga and Dufferin. If you believe everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, and that every person deserves to feel comfort in the place they rest their head, donate today. Together, we can break the cycle of poverty through true, affordable housing.
By: Andrew Nelder
Updated: July 2, 2021