Renting leads to faster biological ageing than living in your own home or social housing, research suggests.
The impact is said to be nearly double that associated with being unemployed.
Biological aging refers to the decline in how the body’s tissues and cells function, regardless of that person’s actual age.
The research found renting in the private sector, falling behind with payments, or living in a home affected by pollution are all linked to faster ageing due to the stress they can bring.
People in social housing appeared to be less negatively affected however, partly as it tends to be cheaper and offers more security.
The study – from the University of Essex and University of Adelaide – said a person’s housing situation can “get under the skin with real and significant consequences for health”.
“Perhaps most notable, and robust, is the faster ageing identified among private renters,” it said.
“Despite the stigmatisation of the tenure, social renting, with its lower cost and greater security of tenure, was not found to differ from outright ownership in terms of association with biological ageing…”
The researchers looked at factors including length of tenancy, building type, costs and rent arrears – and then examined DNA methylation (a marker of DNA changes).
“We find that living in a privately rented home is related to faster biological ageing,” they concluded.
“Importantly, the impact of private renting is greater than the impact of experiencing unemployment or being a former smoker vs never smoker.
“When we include historical housing circumstances in the analysis, we find that repeated housing arrears and exposure to pollution/environmental problems are also associated with faster biological ageing.”
Data came from the UK Household Longitudinal Study and the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), and blood samples were also taken.
On a more positive note, the experts point out that biological ageing is reversible and so housing policy changes – such as limiting rent increases – could help improve renters’ health.
Some changes to property letting laws have already been announced in recent years, such as ending “no-fault” evictions.
The research is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.